*College basketball is here (unlike the NBA), and this year might be one of the best in recent memory. The powerhouse is back, while the Cinderellas believe. That’s a deadly combination. We know some of y’all have been asking for some previews. We have you covered â€“ the top 16 teams in the nation will be previewed individually in the next few weeks. After we broke down Louisville and hated Duke yesterday, we’ll keep this going with No. 5-ranked Syracuse (ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll).*
Take one look at this year’s Syracuse team and you won’t see much of a difference. The Orange, after all, only loses one player in the graduated Rick Jackson. Granted, Jackson was one of SU’s best, if not the best player on last year’s squad. But with three highly-touted freshmen coming in and the rest of the roster one year older and wiser, expectations remain high for the 2011-2012 Syracuse Orange.
Those expectations annually fall on a team like Syracuse, but last year’s second-round loss in the NCAA Tournament provides an extra sense of motivation for SU, especially for players like fifth-year senior Scoop Jardine.
“We’re more excited,” said Jardine at Big East media day. “Coach is excited, our players are. We have a little bad blood in our mouth from losing in the second round last year.”
As is with most teams, SU expects a championship this year. But what the Orange have that other teams don’t is the experience to get there.
Kris Joseph will be the star of this team. The preseason All-Big East First Teamer was SU’s leading scorer last year with 14.3 points per game, and returns for his senior season as one of the conference’s best. Joining him in a leadership role is Jardine, a preseason All-Big East Second Teamer and the longest-tenured player on SU. Jardine led the team in assists last year and showed his ability to carry the team on his back. Complementing him in SU’s experienced backcourt is junior Brandon Triche, a starter since his freshman year. Triche, along with Jardine and Jackson, played in and started all 35 games last year for SU, and is one of the most accurate free-throw shooters on the team.
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