Preseason Top 25 + 1 Countdown

CBSSports.com College Basketball Staff
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By Gary Parrish | College Basketball Insider

Coach: Jim Boeheim

Career record: 890-304

Best NCAA tournament finish: National championship in 2003 at Syracuse

Vital Info: No. 7 Syracuse
CUSEona Wildcats
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Years at current school: 36

Last season's record: 34-3

Notable losses from last season: Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Scoop Jardine, Fab Melo

Notable returnees from last season: Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Rakeem Christmas, Michael Carter-Williams, Baye Keita

Notable newcomers: Dajuan Coleman, Jerami Grant, Trevor Cooney

Projected starters: G: Brandon Triche G: Michael Carter-Williams F: C.J. Fair F: Rakeem Christmas F: Dajuan Coleman

Why this team will be good: The Orange is almost always good -- proof being the fact that it has made eight of the past 10 NCAA tournaments and advanced each of the past four years. That's among the reasons why it's reasonable to assume losing four of the top six scorers from last season won't set Syracuse back like it would most programs not named Kentucky or North Carolina. Are there questions? Of course there are questions now that Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Scoop Jardine and Fab Melo are no longer in college. But Syracuse still has six players who averaged double-digit minutes for a team that won 34 games and a Big East title. In other words, the Orange lost a lot but is still fairly experienced. It just needs some guys to take on expanded roles -- specifically Michael Carter-Williams and Rakeem Christmas. The good news for Syracuse fans is that most believe they're more than capable of doing exactly that.

Why this team might disappoint: Well, the Orange did still lose four of their top six scorers -- including three NBA draft picks. And it's not like Jim Boeheim reloaded with a recruiting class that rivals John Calipari's at Kentucky. What if Michael Carter-Williams looks like just a nice role player? What if Rakeem Christmas doesn't take that next step? What if Dajuan Coleman proves to be a heralded recruit incapable of adjusting to the Division I level as a freshman? If some (or all) of those things happen, then this Syracuse team could slide in the Big East because, man, it sure is easy to slide in the Big East given the quality scattered throughout the top half of the league. So nothing is a given at the Carrier Dome ... not until we actually see these experienced players in expanded roles prove they can play expanded roles for a team that wants to compete for a Big East title and trip to the Final Four.

Bottom line: Regardless of the losses and the questions, the truth is that I like this team and what's possible. That's partly why we have the Orange ranked seventh in the preseason Top 25 (and one), two spots ahead of where it sit in the Associated Press and coaches polls. Are there any stars on the roster? Maybe not ... unless Michael Carter-Williams emerges as one, which is possible given his natural ability. He's a long guy who can handle the ball, shoot the ball and create shots for others. I'm anxious to watch him play more than just 10 minutes per game. But even if Carter-Williams is closer to "very good" than "really great," Jim Boeheim still has enough good pieces at his disposal to keep this team nationally relevant from November through March ... and maybe even April.

Quote from an opposing coach in the league: "They lost a lot but I really like their roster. I'm not sure what (Dajuan) Coleman is going to do this year; I haven't seen him in two summers, and I didn't think he was great then. But I love Michael Carter-Williams, and (Rakeem) Christmas could break through. So I assume Syracuse will be good again."

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