For Syracuse basketball players, goal is bigger than just making Big Dance

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports) /

Syracuse basketball first-year head coach Adrian Autry and his 2023-24 roster of 13 scholarship players are setting their sights on big things in the upcoming season, which officially gets underway in early November.

We all know where the Orange program resides. The ‘Cuse has gone a combined 33-32 over the past two seasons, missing the NCAA Tournament in both terms. In 2023-24, Autry is replacing Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim at the helm of Syracuse basketball.

The roster, undeniably, is filled with athleticism, depth and versatility. But in the off-season, the Orange lost two of its leading scorers from 2022-23, in senior center Jesse Edwards, who transferred to West Virginia, and senior guard Joe Girard III, who transferred to Clemson.

This coming stanza, the ‘Cuse has a few juniors and then a ton of underclassmen within its line-up. There are multiple new faces. We don’t know how the Orange will fare at the center spot, whether the team’s 3-point shooting will be good or not, and how all of these relatively young guys will mesh as a collective unit.

That’s fair context, but it’s also just an observation from me. I’m not out there on the court. To that end, Autry and his players say they’re hard at work in preseason practices, and they know what they want to accomplish in 2023-24.

Syracuse basketball is focused on making a deep NCAA Tournament run this season.

At his recent press conference on the Orange’s annual media day, Autry says that his players are an ultra-competitive group, pushing each other to get better while working hard to gel in a team-oriented manner on both ends of the floor.

Autry has said on numerous occasions that, in 2023-24, the ‘Cuse will primarily play a man-to-man defense, which I think will help SU in the defensive rebounding arena. The squad will utilize an up-tempo style of play and rely on its roster’s depth and versatility. This could entail more pressure defense and getting out in transition on offense after forced turnovers and defensive rebounds.

Many Syracuse basketball fans, myself included, are excited about Autry’s comments regarding the Orange’s playing style this coming season. In mid-April, when he joined CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein on a podcast, Autry said he’s laser-focused on getting Syracuse basketball “back to our standards,” which includes winning 20-plus games every season, playing at a high tempo, sharing the ball and getting after it offensively and defensively.

At his media day presser, Autry said in part of his players, “They understand what they want their season to be.”

To that end, sophomore point guard Judah Mintz recently told Griffin Della Penna of SyracuseOnSI, “We don’t want to just make the (NCAA) Tournament, but we want to make a run. We want to be really good, from a Syracuse standpoint. That’s why I came back (after testing the 2023 NBA Draft process). That’s what everyone here is trying to accomplish this year.”

"Sophomore wing Justin Taylor, in an interview with The Juice Online associate editor/columnist Jim Stechschulte, said, “We’re all hungry to win. We all want to compete and bring the best out of each other. We compete on the court, but we’re all brothers outside of the court. We come into practice knowing we have to push each other to try to be great. Like you said, we have a ton of guys who are super talented. We have a ton of weapons. That will prove beneficial to the season and down the road. It starts with practice and pushing each other.”"

Sophomore forward Maliq Brown, who could see some time at the center position in 2023-24, according to media reports, agreed with other ‘Cuse players that preseason practices under Autry have proven intense and highly competitive.

Brown said in part to The Juice Online staff writer Brett Gustin, “I feel like this team can take another step we have not seen yet. With our workouts and the past few weeks, I feel like we could be something special.”

I can’t wait for Syracuse basketball to commence its 2023-24 stanza in a couple of weeks.

Next. Syracuse Basketball: ‘Cuse poised for bounce-back season, per Andy Katz. dark