Syracuse Basketball: Experts say Rick Pitino, St. John’s tops in NY – yuck

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) /

Two noted national experts, in recent days, predicted the best basketball team in every U.S. state for the 2023-24 season, and Syracuse basketball got shut out in the Empire State.

First-year head coach Adrian Autry and his squad begin their 2023-24 campaign on Monday, Nov. 6, when the Orange hosts New Hampshire at the JMA Wireless Dome. Autry has said he’s highly confident in his squad, and Syracuse basketball players are focused on not just making the 2024 NCAA Tournament, but also going on a deep run in next spring’s March Madness.

Autry is one of numerous new head coaches at high-major programs in 2023-24, and another one also has former ties to the ‘Cuse.

Former Syracuse basketball assistant coach Rick Pitino, a New York City native and two-time national champion, is back in the Big Apple as the head coach of Big East Conference member St. John’s.

When college basketball insider Andy Katz of and CBS Sports senior writer Matt Norlander each published articles a couple of days ago where they noted the top projected team in every U.S. state, both of them went with St. John’s in New York state. Gross.

Syracuse basketball has every opportunity to show it’s the best squad in the Empire State.

Now, in putting my Orange-colored glasses to the side for now, for some context, the Orange went 17-15 overall in 2022-23 under then-head coach Jim Boeheim, missing the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.

Last season, the Red Storm also didn’t get an invite to the Big Dance, sporting an 18-15 mark, although St. John’s did knock off Syracuse basketball, in overtime, at the Empire Classic from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., in November of 2022.

Pitino, who was an assistant under Boeheim on the Hill decades ago, was brought in to be the new head coach at St. John’s, replacing Mike Anderson.

Most recently, Pitino had a lot of success at Iona, taking the Gaels to the NCAA Tournament twice. He won national titles with Kentucky and Louisville in 1996 and 2013, respectively, and also took Providence to the Final Four in 1987.

"Boeheim, not too long ago, dished on Pitino and St. John’s in a chat with CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein, saying in part, “They’re going to be at worst a top-20 team this season. They might be in the top 10 or 15. The difference between Rick (Pitino) and other guys is he doesn’t need the best players to win. And he has players this season at St. John’s.”"

The Red Storm’s 2023-24 roster has a ton of new faces from the prior stanza, but the line-up also features a lot of veterans, either seniors or graduate students. One newbie is 2023 four-star combo guard Simeon Wilcher, who held a Syracuse basketball scholarship offer, initially committed to North Carolina, then de-committed before signing with St. John’s.

In the Big East’s preseason coaches’ poll, St. John’s was forecast at No. 5 in the league standings. Some super early bracketology projections for the 2024 NCAA Tournament do include the Red Storm, and St. John’s did receive votes in the preseason Associated Press and Coaches’ top-25 polls.

I haven’t come across one preseason mock field of 68, meanwhile, that includes Syracuse basketball. The Orange didn’t land any votes in the preseason top-25 polls, and in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s preseason media poll, the ‘Cuse was placed at No. 10 in the league.

Candidly, I’m not surprised that St. John’s has been deemed the top group in New York state ahead of 2023-24. I just hope that when all is said and done, Syracuse basketball has taken care of business on the court, with Autry notching more triumphs than Pitino and (knock on wood) going further in the Big Dance.

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