With the season tipping off on Friday, everyone is eager to get underway. CuseNation.com digs a little deeper into this season and makes five bold predictions for the Orange.
Malachi Richardson wins ACC Freshman of the Year: Through the first two exhibition games, Richardson looks as good as advertised. The 6-foot-6 forward averaged 16.5 points per game in the two games, also grabbing 7 rebounds each game. If Malachi can keep these numbers up all season, not only will Syracuse benefit, but he could be looking at the ACC Freshman of the Year.
Michael Gbinije makes First-Team All-ACC: It has been duly noted that Gbinije is Syracuse's best player and their most versatile scorer. The 6-foot-7 guard is coming off a junior campaign in which he averaged 12.7 points and 5 rebounds a game. Those numbers weren't as high as they could've been, due to Rakeem Christmas' monster year. With Gbinije running the point and his ability to score and get his teammates involved, he should be a candidate for First-Team All-ACC.
Kaleb Joseph wins ACC Most Improved Player: There's no two ways around it, Joseph struggled his freshman year. KJ started 30-of-31 games for the Orange, averaged 5.9 points and 3.8 assists per game. In the first two exhibition games, Joseph looks like a completely different player. He's more confident on both ends of the court, but more importantly, shooting the ball. He'll be coming off the bench this year, which may be a role that suits him well.
One non-conference loss: Syracuse has their toughest non-conference schedule in recent memory. The Orange will travel to the Bahamas later this month to participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis. SU could end up facing Michigan, Gonzaga or UConn, among others. They'll also travel to Georgetown, St. John's and host Wisconsin. If Syracuse only loses one non-conference game, their record will be 12-1 heading into ACC play.
Elite 8: If this team continues to shoot they way they're capable of and the 2-3 zone tightens up, an Elite 8 run wouldn't be out of the question. Dajuan Coleman will need to stay healthy and contribute, but come tournament time, Syracuse could be scary. They have all the pieces for a team to make a run: defense, senior leadership, depth in the backcourt, coaching and shooters.