Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has an experienced team and a new team all in one.
Coming off an 18–10 campaign that included a surprising trip to the Sweet 16, the Syracuse Orange's roster includes two returning starters in the backcourt, a fifth-year senior at center and an emerging junior center. Syracuse also boasts two senior forwards and a junior at the backup guard position.
But both of those forwards and the reserve guard are transfers from other schools, brought in to help replace four out-bound transfers plus the losses of senior forward Marek Dolezaj to graduation and junior small forward Alan Griffin.
"We've got a lot of veteran guys," Boeheim says of his team, which includes two of his sons. "We've got more experience than we've had in a long time. There's just one freshman and the rest are juniors, seniors and fifth-year seniors.
"But we've got a lot of new guys," he adds. "It'll be interesting to see how it all comes together."
At a Glance
HEAD COACH: Jim Boeheim
2020-21 RECORD (ACC): 18-10 (9-7)
2020-21 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Houston 62-46 in the Sweet 16
F Marek Dolezaj (9.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
F Alan Griffin (13.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
F Quincy Guerrier (13.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg)
G Kadary Richmond (6.3 ppg, 3.1 apg)
Syracuse lost both starting forwards when Quincy Guerrier, who led the Orange in rebounding as a sophomore last year at 8.4 per game, and Griffin, who averaged 13.3 points in his first year at SU after transferring from Illinois, both decided to leave. Guerrier transferred to Oregon, while Griffin chose to turn pro.
Boeheim brought in transfers Cole Swider of Villanova and Jimmy Boeheim of Cornell plus freshman Benny Williams. Swider connected on 40.2 percent of his 3-pointers last year, while Boeheim missed the 2020-21 season due to the Ivy League's decision to suspend play due to COVID-19. Williams is SU's highest-rated recruit in five years.
"We're bigger," Jim Boeheim says. "We've got three 6'9" guys. Last year, we were 6'7" and 6'5"."
Bourama Sidibe started every game at center as a junior but appeared in just two games last year after injuring his knee in the opener. Boeheim hopes to have him back. Meanwhile, Jesse Edwards, a 6'11" junior from the Netherlands, began to emerge late last year. Edwards' length expanded SU's zone defense. He blocked eight shots all season, but six of those came in the last eight games.
"We knew it would take Jesse three or four years," Boeheim says. "He's getting better."
For the third consecutive year, Syracuse's backcourt will feature Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard.
Both guards struggled for much of last year. Syracuse endured two lengthy stoppages due to the coronavirus. Then, Boeheim missed three games due to contact tracing, and both players contracted the virus in late December.
But both came on strong during SU's late-season run to an NCAA Tournament bid and, eventually, the Sweet 16. Boeheim averaged 23.0 points over his last 10 games. Girard scored in double-figures in four of SU's five postseason games.
"I think they'll both be better this year," Jim Boeheim says.
Symir Torrence, a Syracuse native, transferred to SU after two years at Marquette. His arrival will help compensate for the loss of Kadary Richmond, who left for Seton Hall. Torrence played AAU ball with both Boeheim and Girard and should fit in well as the backup guard.
It's difficult to look at the heavy losses and think Syracuse could be a better team this year, but take another look. This is a team that will rely on the 3-point shot, and the addition of the sharpshooting Swider provides another option on top of Buddy Boeheim and Girard. As transfers, Jimmy Boeheim and Torrence understand their roles coming into the program, which should help team chemistry.
The hoped-for development of Edwards would give Syracuse a true center, and, in turn, the Orange's zone defense could look much different than it did last year.
All told, it's possible that Jim Boeheim could have a group that fits together better.
Postseason Prediction: NCAA Tournament Round of 64
ACC Prediction: 7