When the Orange lost to Division II Le Moyne College, many Syracuse fans saw that as a preview for the upcoming season.
After loosing starters Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris to the draft, this season was supposed to be a good, not great year. Many fans were already waiting for next season and the great upcoming recruiting class to arrive.
The Orange won their first two games against low tier opponents, Richmond and Albany, by an average margin of 32 points, but that was nothing more than the expected. The challenges were about to begin against the top teams in the 2K Sports Classic.
After sitting out all last season with a stress fracture, redshirt sophomore Scoop Jardine leads the team in assists and points and lead the upset against then No. 12 ranked California.
The Orange scored 93 points in the blowout victory, but Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim thinks the offense can be even better.
Last season, the Orange missed arguably the two most important players to this season’s success, Scoop Jardine and Iowa State transfer Weasley Johnson.
Wasley Johnson, the Corsicana, Texas native, has been a very pleasant surprise so far this season. After averaging a little over 12 PPG in his two seasons at Iowa State before transferring, Johnson has seen a steady increase in statistical production across the board.
The combo forward has done a little bit of everything for the Orange leading the team in points, rebounds, and blocks. His versatility across the board has been key to the Orange’s success.
With a solid inside and outside game, Johnson has shown he can play both forward positions despite his lanky build. Johnson is currently ranked second for the team in three point percentage and is averaging nearly two three pointers per game.
The team’s most noticeable sharp shooter this year has been senior Andy Rautins. Last season’s sixth man has been looked to as the team’s leader and has responded well shooting a good field goal percentage and taking much smarter shots.
Last season, Rautins was looked to as the shooter off the bench to provide relief in the guard positions. Rautins would often move around to get a good three point line and shoot whenever he got the ball.
This season, Rautins is still a shooter and is still much more comfortable shooting the three ball, but has looked like a much better passer and a player that is much more relaxed handling the ball.
Against then No. 4 ranked North Carolina, Rautins caused havoc on both sides of the ball having a very balanced game with 11 points, seven rebounds, and seven steals.
Rautins’ seven steals were part of the 18 TOs caused by the Syracuse defense. After the defense not showing up against California, Jim Boeheim’s trademark 2-3 zone lead the second half lock down of a young and talented North Carolina Tar Heels.
The guard play for the Orange has been excellent, but the post has looked spectacle at times.
Senior Arinze Onuaku has looked much better running the floor and is getting good production offensively, but his rebounding numbers have been subpar for a starting center that has been averaging a little over seven rebounds per game the last two seasons prior to this one.
Syracuse has not really been in many close games, so Onuaku is also not averaging as many minutes to begin the season.
Overall, the Orange have looked like one of the most impressive teams in the start the season. The offense has been productive and have impressive, blowout victories over ranked opponents.
If the Orange continue their intensity on the offensive end and show the same defense they showed against North Carolina, do not be surprised if you hear talk about this team come tourney time.