The No. 5 Syracuse Orange kick things off for the 2011-12 season today against Fordham. Just under an hour before tip, all seems well on the floor. The squad is healthy and ready to roll to what many feel will be a deep run in the NCAA Tournament when it's all said and done.
So, in honor of the ranking, we propose five simple questions that will need to be answered over the next four-plus months.
5 Questions for No. 5
1. How will the frontcourt perform in the absence of departed star Rick Jackson?
CuseNation.com touched on this in the preseason, but it will be a team effort led by the new-and-improved Fab Melo.
2. Will Fab turn the corner?
Speaking of the big Brazilian, he looked awfully improved in the preseason. I know, it's the preseason, but it's all we have to look at for now. If he continues to stay active and play efficient on both ends of the floor without bonehead mistakes, the Orange will be in solid shape up front.
3. Will the starting backcourt take the next step?
Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche were very hit-or-miss last season. Jardine is turnover-prone and will force shots at the wrong time, though he was an improved passer throughout the 2010-11 campaign. Triche should be the most aggressive offensive threat on the floor, but his confidence waivers. If he can stay in attack-mode within the offense, defenses will have a hard time dealing with SU.
4. Will Kris Joseph get healthy enough to improve?
Joseph is a standout with 1st-team All-Big-East written all over him, but his nagging knee rehab has set him back in the preseason. Coach Jim Boeheim says he is a month away from being where he needs to be. If so, can the Orange keep pace with the elite teams in the country without a 100-percent Joseph?
5. How much of an instant impact will the freshman provide?
Michael Carter-Williams and Rakeem Christmas are sure-fire first-year guys who will see plenty of playing time. Will they get through the majority of their rookie mistakes before Big East play picks up? Trevor Cooney's situation is not yet resolved, considering he may be red-shirted sooner than later.
If the Orange answer these questions in the next few months, it will be where everyone expects it to be in late March – still playing basketball.