Syra­cuse looks to make an­other Final Four run

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By John Kekis

Last year ended on a happy note for Syra­cuse coach Jim Boe­heim — a trip to the Final Four for the fifth time in his Hall of Fame ca­reer. This sea­son? An en­core per­for­mance is on the mind.

SYRA­CUSE, N.Y. >> Last year ended on a happy note for Syra­cuse coach Jim Boe­heim — a trip to the Final Four for the fifth time in his Hall of Fame ca­reer. This sea­son? An en­core per­for­mance is on the mind.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to win­ning a lot,” se­nior for­ward Tyler Rober­son said. “We want to get back to the tour­na­ment and win the na­tional cham­pi­onship. That’s the main goal. I know we can’t ask for much more (than making the Final Four), but we went really far and we are bring­ing that energy into this sea­son.”

Un­til Syra­cuse was se­lected to play in the NCAA Tour­na­ment in the spring, the 2015-16 sea­son was for­get­table. Boe­heim served a nine-game sus­pen­sion as part of sanc­tions handed down by the NCAA af­ter a mul­ti­year in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the school’s ath­letic de­part­ment, and the Or­ange were a long­shot to make the field af­ter go­ing 19-14 in the reg­u­lar sea­son and a pedes­trian 9-9 in the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence.

Four wins in the big dance turned the sea­son into a rous­ing suc­cess, and the sky seems to be the limit this year de­spite the de­par­ture of the top three scor­ers — guards Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney, and Malachi Richard­son, who left for the NBA af­ter a stel­lar fresh­man sea­son.

The short bench that hurt last year’s team likely won’t be a fac­tor this sea­son. Syra­cuse has a solid mix of tal­ented re­turnees in­clud­ing Rober­son, cen­ter Da­juan Cole­man, pro­jected firstround NBA pick Tyler Ly­don, and guard Frank Howard. The Or­ange also wel­come a highly ranked re­cruit­ing class of three in Matthew Moyer, Tau­rean Thomp­son and Tyus Bat­tle, two fifthyear trans­fers in guard John Gil­lon (av­er­aged 13.2 points and 3.8 as­sists at Colorado State) and sharp­shooter An­drew White III (16.6 points and 5.9 re­bounds at Ne­braska), who are el­i­gi­ble to play im­me­di­ately, and a tra­di­tional trans­fer, 7-foot-2 cen­ter Paschal Chukwu.

“We have never put five new guys in within one year that I can re­mem­ber,” Boe­heim said. “We have five new guys that ac­tu­ally will play a lot.”

Boe­heim, soon to be 72, isn’t about to change his phi­los­o­phy as the end of his long ca­reer at his alma mater looms. In other words, no pre­dic­tions.

“You never know about a team un­til you get in the game. It isn’t un­til you have a cou­ple of bat­tles,” said Boe­heim, who is slated to re­tire af­ter next sea­son. “There is al­ways ad­ver­sity in the game. It isn’t al­ways smooth sail­ing.”

Other things to know when Syra­cuse kicks off the sea­son against up­state New York foe Col­gate on Nov. 11:

TRANS­FER CITY >> Boe­heim ac­cepted only a hand­ful of trans­fers in his first 40 years at his alma mater. Year No. 41 sort of rep­re­sents a wa­ter­shed mo­ment with three.

“Trans­fers that we’ve taken have been very im­pact­ful to our pro­gram,” Boe­heim said. “When you’re down numbers and you have a fifth year, you help your team. If Malachi would have stayed, we prob­a­bly wouldn’t have taken any. It’s here to stay now.”

ZONED OUT >> Boe­heim al­ways seems to have lots of long arms in the lineup to en­hance the ef­fec­tive­ness of his trade­mark zone de­fense, and this year’s team might be the long­est ever with eight play­ers 6-7 or taller. Chukwu prom­ises to be a men­ac­ing force in­side, and Cole­man (6-9), Ly­don (6-8), Rober­son (6-8), White (6-7), along with in­com­ing fresh­men Matthew Moyer (6-8) and Tau­rean Thomp­son (610) fig­ure to give op­po­nents fits.

3-BALLS GA­LORE >> With a thin ros­ter, Syra­cuse re­lied on its perime­ter shoot­ing last sea­son, hoist­ing up 876 3-point­ers and av­er­ag­ing 8.5 made 3s per game. The Or­ange has ex­pe­ri­ence there with Ly­don, who was the most ac­cu­rate (49 of 121, 40.5 per­cent), and White (87 of 211, 41.2 per­cent).

“It’s a part of the game now,” Boe­heim said. “Ev­ery player that can make them can shoot them.”

PRESS­ING MAT­TERS >> Syra­cuse uses the press at just about ev­ery prac­tice and uti­lizes it spar­ingly but to great ef­fect in games when needed. With such a deep ros­ter, us­ing it more of­ten is an op­tion.

“It came in handy last year. A cou­ple of games we wouldn’t have won with­out pres­sure,” Boe­heim said. “We think we’ll pres­sure more, but when we get into the sea­son, if it’s not there, then we won’t use it.”

MR. VER­SA­TILE >> Ly­don emerged as a bona fide star last sea­son as a fresh­man with his strong perime­ter game and shot-block­ing abil­ity in­side (team-high 67 blocks) while play­ing cen­ter and both for­ward po­si­tions. He added 20 pounds of mus­cle in the off­sea­son, which prom­ises to make him a more im­pos­ing fig­ure all over the court.

DAVID J. PHILLIP — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this file photo, Syra­cuse head coach Jim Boe­heim an­swers ques­tions at a news con­fer­ence for the NCAA Final Four col­lege basketball tour­na­ment, in Hous­ton. Last year ended on a happy note for Syra­cuse coach Boe­heim _ a berth in the NCAA Tour­na­ment Final Four for the fifth time in his Hall of Fame ca­reer.

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