1. Can Rak Stay Out of Foul Trouble?
The improvement in Rakeem Christmas' game is clear. He was the top offensive option against Kennesaw State, and recorded a game (and career) high 21 points. Rak was dominant in the post, getting any shot he wanted. He struggled to finish around the rim early, but made up for it late. Christmas picked up two first half fouls and another in the second half. His ability to stay on the court is critical to Syracuse's success.
2. Can McCullough/Johnson Back It Up?
Freshman phenom Chris McCullough was very good in his debut, recording a double-double. The most encouraging part of his game was his physicality down low on the boards and willingness to to mix up defensively. He will finish better around the rim, but it will be interesting to see if he continues to be strong on the glass.
Not to be outdone, B.J. Johnson gave the Orange an offensive spark and had easily the best game of his career. Also encouraging was being effective on the defensive boards. Can he continue to make a case to be part of the regular rotation?
3. Will the Zone Play Well Again?
In the exhibition games, the zone was not very good. The rotations were off, too many open shots were allowed and too many players looked lost. But when the regular season started on Friday, it was back to the same old 2-3 zone that has given teams fits for years. If Syracuse can continue their strong defensive play, it bodes well for the rest of the season.
4. Can Cooney Continue Efficient Play?
Lost in Friday night's win was Trevor Cooney playing solid basketball. He did not force outside shots, put the ball on the floor and even attacked the basket at times. He scored 12 points on 5-7 shooting, including 1-2 from beyond the arc. Cooney was also very good defensively, an underrated aspect of his game. Let's see if he can continue those types of performances.
5. Gbinije's Return
Michael Gbinije missed the season opener for undisclosed, non-injury related reasons. Jim Boeheim said he would be back for this game. Let's see what type of role he plays. If Johnson continues to step up, Gbinije may play more in the backcourt than originally thought. If Kaleb Joseph struggles with turnovers, as he did in game one, his play will become even more important. Sunday's game will give some insight into all of those things, including how he will be used going forward.