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September 25, 2009

Top 347 countdown
No. 42 Syracuse
Coach: Jim Boeheim (34th season).
Last season's record: 28-10 overall, 11-7 in Big East (sixth in league).
Postseason: Lost in third round of NCAA tournament to Oklahoma.
Final regular-season RPI: 12th.
Last time didn't make NCAA field: 2008.
Returning starters: 2.

OVERVIEW

His top three scorers entered the NBA draft, but Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said during the summer that the Orange should be a top-20 team by the end of the 2009-10 season. The comment might seem puzzling at first - especially considering Syracuse lost point guard and NBA lottery pick Jonny Flynn. Still, inspect the Orange's roster a little more closely, and it's easy to see the reasons for Boeheim's optimism. Throw in that Syracuse is led by a Hall of Fame coach, and it's not farfetched to think that Boeheim's squad could compete for a Big East title in what's being regarded as a down year for the conference.

Senior Arinze Onuaku averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds last season.

PROJECTED STARTERS
F Rick Jackson, 6-9/240, Jr.
F Wesley Johnson, 6-7/198, Jr.
F Arinze Onuaku, 6-9/275, Sr.
G Andy Rautins, 6-5/205, Sr.
G Brandon Triche, 6-4/210, Fr.
KEY RESERVES
F Mookie Jones, 6-6/210, R-Fr.
F Kris Joseph, 6-7/220, Soph.
G Scoop Jardine, 6-1/196, Soph.

FRONTCOURT

Even with the loss of Paul Harris, Boeheim said the Orange's frontcourt could be as good as it's been in "many, many years." NBA scouts love forward Arinze Onuaku, a 6-foot-9, 275-pound senior who averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds last season. Also back is 240-pound junior Rick Jackson, who was just behind Onuaku with 8.3 points and 5.8 boards in 2008-09. Onuaku and Jackson alone would give Syracuse one of the conference's most imposing frontcourts. Throw in Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson, and the unit is downright scary. A 6-7 small forward, Johnson can score from anywhere on the court - including from behind the 3-point line. He averaged 12.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in two seasons at Iowa State.

BACKCOURT

Before he ever stepped on campus, freshman Brandon Triche had been named Syracuse's starting point guard by Boeheim. The announcement was a bit of a surprise considering Triche wasn't a top-100 recruit. If Triche struggles, the Orange can bring Scoop Jardine off the bench. An injury forced Jardine to redshirt last season, but he averaged 5.5 points in 19.6 minutes as a freshman in 2007-08. Also back is shooting guard Andy Rautins, who is expected to be one of the top 3-point threats in the league. Rautins made 102 shots from beyond the arc last season and had 12 games with at least four 3-pointers.

OUTLOOK

Syracuse is a good choice for a sleeper team in the Big East. Yes, the Orange lost a lot. But their frontcourt will be one of the most physical in the conference, and they have a pair of outside shooting threats in Johnson and Rautins. The key will be the development of Triche. No matter how good Boeheim says Triche is, the Big East is a tough league for any freshman, much less a point guard.

More Rivals.com 2009-10 Preseason 347 Countdown

Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.



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