Syracuse returns with promise
Guards Cooney, Ennis making a difference for Orange
Then there is the men's hoop team. While the ACC opener was a little closer than expected (a 49-44 win over Miami), the Orange are 14-0 and No. 2 in the national rankings.
Jim Boeheim's coaching credentials are well-known, and he's a Hall of Famer. He is all about consistency and success, success, success. Still, I don't think anybody believed his Orange squad would be this good, this early.
Last season, Syracuse went to the Final Four, but several members from that squad did not return. Michael Carter-Williams left for the NBA. His backcourt mate, Brandon Triche, and top-flight scoring threat James Southerland also finished their careers.
Of course it helps to have kept an All-American candidate in forward C. J. Fair. He is a great talent on the baseline. There was no question about Syracuse's size up front with 6-foot-9 Rakeem Christmas and 6-9 DaJuan Coleman. Coming off the bench, 6-8 Jerami Grant has been a big factor, as well, showing his athleticism.
Yet, it's the backcourt that has been better than advertised.
I spoke to Boeheim earlier this season. He said he believed he had a lot of talent up front and that the Orange would be pretty good if they got guard play.
Let's look at what their guards have done so far. Trevor Cooney averaged 3.4 ppg last season; this season he's at 14.1 ppg. Tyler Ennis was not even on campus a season ago and is contributing 11.6 ppg.
This duo has come through and surprised a lot of experts. Ennis is now one of the premier diaper dandies in America, in the discussion with the likes of Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon.
If you don't think Cooney and Ennis have opened some eyes, go talk to Villanova coach Jay Wright. The guard tandem totaled 41 points as the Orange rallied from a 25-7 deficit to beat the previously-unbeaten Wildcats by 16 points. That is a 34-point swing against a quality opponent.
Syracuse has rolled to wins over Baylor, California, Minnesota and Indiana.
Syracuse is poised to take over No. 1 if Arizona slips. The Orange couldn't have come together at a better time in the ACC. When you look at the conference, North Carolina has been up and down. While Duke is certainly tough, the Orange are probably the class of the conference right now.
Boeheim keeps rolling up the W's, baby! Syracuse comes out in that tough 2-3 zone so well, with the length and athleticism to disturb the opponent's rhythm. The Orange rotate well and the defense is so cohesive, it is unbelievable.
Psychologically, it is worth so many points because the opposition goes bananas thinking about going up against the 2-3 zone. Coaches work on half-court sets and then you go against the zone; it is not something you can easily simulate in practice.
The expectations were for Syracuse to have a good year, but now the Syracuse fans believe something big is brewing.
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