Don’t sleep on Syracuse basketball, which has top 25 upside, experts say

Syracuse basketball, Benny Williams (Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball, Benny Williams (Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) /

As the 2023-24 season for Syracuse basketball inches closer, with official games underway in early November, there is excitement brewing among the Orange fan base about first-year head coach Adrian Autry and his plans for the program.

We’re likely to see more man-to-man defense. We’re likely to see a 2023-24 team that presses more, plays at an up-tempo pace, gets out in transition more, and relies on a deep and versatile roster where guys can suit up at multiple positions.

It remains to be seen how Autry will fare in his first season at the helm, after the legendary Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim retired this past March. Regardless of wins and losses, the ‘Cuse in 2023-24 should prove fun to watch.

Understandably, with a new head coach and a sizable roster makeover this off-season, many national and Atlantic Coast Conference pundits aren’t super high on the Orange as far as preseason prognostications go.

But if all the pieces come together, two national experts recently said not to sleep on Syracuse basketball, and I love hearing that.

Syracuse basketball has question marks, but a lot of promise, too, experts say.

Recently, noted experts and all-around good guys John Fanta and Rob Dauster discussed the Orange ahead of 2023-24 on The Field Of 68 podcast. I highly encourage you to check it out.

They discussed the big shoes that Autry has to fill in replacing Boeheim. With Autry in charge, Dauster said he expects to see Syracuse basketball step into a “more modern era” of the sport, playing more man defense and utilizing more “modern concepts” on offense.

They acknowledge that losing senior center Jesse Edwards to West Virginia was rough. Joe Girard III, a senior guard, transferred to Clemson, and those two developments mean that the ‘Cuse will have to replace more than 30 combined points per game of scoring.

Plus, the Orange will need to have more reliable 3-point shooting, with Girard gone. Guys like junior forward Benny Williams, sophomore guards Judah Mintz and J.J. Starling, and sophomore wings Chris Bell and Justin Taylor are key in this department.

In Mintz, Starling, who transferred in from Notre Dame, and sophomore guard Chance Westry, who transferred in from Auburn, among others, the Syracuse basketball backcourt is athletic, deep and versatile, Fanta and Dauster said.

Dauster says that Mintz, Starling and Westry give the Orange three potential NBA players at the 1,2 and 3 spots. If they all hit their ceiling, Dauster added, there won’t be many college squads out there that possess a better perimeter trio.

However, questions lurk. Mintz and Starling have to improve from deep. A season ago, Starling was somewhat inconsistent and played for a bad Fighting Irish group. Westry, due to injury, didn’t play all that much at Auburn.

The key in the backcourt, these experts said, is will all of the Orange’s guards be able to gel as a cohesive unit. Minutes will be at a premium with such a deep group of guards, and could that create any issues?

Fanta says that with the middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference undefined, because Syracuse basketball has a promising backcourt, he thinks the Orange can make a move up in the league’s pecking order.

Dauster says to keep an eye on Williams. He shot well from 3-point land in 2022-23, albeit with limited attempts. He can be a pivotal factor at the “big wing spot” for the Orange this coming season.

Dauster then goes on to mention Bell and sophomore forward Maliq Brown, who is a good rebounder and an underrated player, in my opinion. Autry, according to Dauster, has a lot of depth, options and weapons on his 2023-24 roster. If it all comes together, as the upcoming term progresses, Syracuse basketball has a “real chance” at being a top-25 team.

The Orange’s line-up is still relatively young, with no seniors and a lot of underclassmen. Fanta notes that if guys such as Bell, Brown and others can make a strong sophomore leap, that will prove huge for the ‘Cuse.

Understandably, with Edwards having departed the program, a question mark and perhaps an X-factor for Syracuse basketball is the center spot. In 2023-24, the Orange has four centers, with Florida State transfer Naheem McLeod, a junior, expected to start this season after showing promise in limited minutes for the Seminoles a stanza ago.

According to Dauster, the team’s centers all boast potential, but they’re all unproven, too. I agree with that. If McLeod, in particular, can step up, it will be “influential” for the ‘Cuse, Dauster says, adding that it’s also feasible a big wing, such as Brown or Williams, could spend some time at the five position as well.

Fanta ended the podcast with this encouraging statement. “The nation might be undervaluing the Orange. Don’t do it.”

Well said, John.

Next. Syracuse Basketball: Chance Westry says he’s ready to have a big season. dark