Syracuse began last season playing like a true championship contender. They started their campaign winning the first 25 games; however, they went 3-6 down the stretch en rout to a second round tournament exit at the hands of Dayton. Despite the disappointing end to the season, it was still a successful one. Coach Boeheim’s stifling zone defense was once again among the best in the country, allowing just 59.2 PPG (ranked eighth) and grabbing 8 SPG (ranked 17th). They finished 28-6 (14-4), second in the ACC, and senior CJ Fair led the way while capping off a remarkable career in upstate New York.
Next year, without Tyler Ennis, Fair, and Jerami Grant, there is a lot of pressure on the new recruits to come in ready to perform. As talented as Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough are though, Michael Gibinije must improve as well if Syracuse wants to compete with the ACC’s elite once more. Additionally, as the lone senior, Rakeem Christmas will anchor the defense, but he must step up his leadership on the offensive side of the ball. Syracuse struggles to shoot the ball (43.7 team FG%) and relies to heavily on their defense, a difficiult obstacle to overcome if you can’t hang in a shootout. If Christmas and others can get better looks in the paint, Trevor Cooney and Joseph will have more room to rain down threes, and the Syracuse offense could be a lot more efficient and versatile.
CJ Fair, F (16.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.5 APG)
Fair was a four year standout at Syracuse, playing in 143 games and averaging 11.6 PPG and 5.7 RPG over his career. He improved each season, earning all-conference honors his junior and senior year, and earned the distinction of being a second team All-American. With his departure, Boeheim will have to find a new go-to scoring option.
Tyler Ennis, PG (12.9 PPG, 5.5 APG, 2.1 SPG)
Syracuse lost a great floor general when Ennis opted to enter the NBA draft after his freshmen year. An All-ACC player, leading the conference in steals and assists, he is now playing for the Phoenix Suns. Learning the game from guards like Dragic and Bledsoe, it will be exciting to see Ennis develop his game the next few years.
Kaleb Joseph, PG
Joseph is ranked as the 50th best prospect in the nation, and for a good reason. He has great ball control, and is adept at changing directions quickly to get to open spots. The length he brings to the position is a perfect fit for Boeheim and his defensive minded system. Joseph has all the potential to be a great player, but the work must translate into results on both sides of the ball before final analysis can be rendered.
Chris McCullough, PF
The Bronx native got offers to play at just about every top program in the country, but he turned down the likes of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisville to play in-state at Syracuse. McCullough is the 24th best prospect in the 2014 class; he excels in transition with his elite athleticism, and his quickness keeps opponents out of the paint on defense.