"Remember a year ago when the Syracuse Orange basketball team lost to Le Moyne College in an exhibition game? Remember how it aired over and over again. There it was; all the proof needed for why the Orange were going to have a season to forget. Experts explained to us over and over again why Villanova, Georgetown and three other Big East schools were better. Well, even experts miss. So how do you follow up a 30-win season, a Big East Championship, a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance and replace the likes of Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku and Wesley Johnson?
"Last year’s team philosophy was "Shut it down" and, for the most part, they did. They shut down 30 of the 35 opponents they faced. Unfortunately, the Orange found themselves with the injury bug at the wrong time. Onuaku went down in the Big East Tournament and left the Orange feeling small, and the No. 1 seed faltered in the Sweet 16. But we could also argue that the Orange went further than expected.
"Fast forward to the 2010-11 campaign and we have already seen the Orange hurdle their first obstacle when they handled Le Moyne, 91-48. That sets up this year’s slogan, "Unfinished Business," referring to the abrupt and disappointing ending to Butler in the Sweet 16 last year. Sure, it was only Le Moyne and it was only an exhibition game, but with a group that includes just one senior (Rick Jackson) and four freshmen (Fab Mello, Baye Moussa Keita, C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters) that could see
"big minutes early in their careers, the Orange’s season will sure be an unpredictable one.
"So with the season on the horizon let us take a look at the five keys to repeating last year’s success.
"1. Bench play. It sounds weird even saying this about a Jim Boeheim-led team, but this year’s Orange are deep. Look for Boeheim to play eight or nine guys every night. Bench play will factor into just about every game this year.
"2. Replacing last year’s scoring. Anytime you lose the likes of Johnson, Onuaku and Rautins, you know there are serious scoring voids to fill. The three combined to score 48 percent of the teams points a year ago.
"3. Freshmen. With three freshmen more than likely coming off the bench and Fab Melo starting, the Orange will ask them to accomplish a very difficult task in the Big East: to play beyond their years.
"4. Avoid the little man. Over the years, we have seen the likes of Cleveland St., UMass, Rhode Island, Wichita State, Drexel, Bucknell and Charlotte feel right at home inside the Carrier Dome. With a young team, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to see an upset on the horizon. Look no further than the first game against last year’s Cinderella: Northern Iowa.
"5. Run, run and run some more. Syracuse operates the fast break second to none. Once again, the Orange will need to be up-tempo in a very solid Big East. With a young team that shoots quick, shots fast-break points will need to come at a premium for the Orange.