Regardless of the outcome of Friday’s season opener against Bryant, the fact Syracuse will be playing at all should be considered a victory.
As of this writing, over 35 programs across the NCAA have been put on pause and/or have cancelled competition due to COVID-19 complications. This does not include the 10 programs that have already cancelled their seasons entirely (Bethune-Cookman, Maryland Eastern-Shore, and the Ivy League).
Syracuse is ready to tip-off on Friday, but they were not without speed bumps of their own. The Orange have been quarantined since November 15th, the day head coach Jim Boeheim announced he tested positive for the virus. Fortunately, Boeheim reported no symptoms, saying he "didn't feel sick, nothing. It was a scare. It's behind me". The team’s lockdown ends on Thanksgiving Day, allowing Syracuse to get one last practice in before their 2020 season begins.
Aside from the NBA bound Elijah Hughes, the Orange should look very familiar to those who watched last year. They return 75.7% of their minutes played, which is the most of any ACC team.
Joe Girard III and Buddy Boeheim remain the core of the backcourt, with Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe expected to start once again. Quincy Gurrier will look to build off a strong rookie season, as he’ll see significant minutes off the bench behind Dolezaj and Sidibe.
However, there are some new names that deserve attention. Illinois transfer Alan Griffin, son of Toronto Raptors Assistant Coach Adrian Griffin, should start the small forward spot vacated by Hughes. Griffin shot 41.6% from three last year for the Illini, playing 18 minutes a game.
The Orange should also see some contributions from some Freshmen recruits. 4-star guard Kadary Richmond should see minutes right away for Jim Boeheim’s squad badly needing backcourt depth.
Frank Anselem, a 6’10” big man from Suwanee, Georgia, will look to impress as a rim protector behind Bourama Sidibe, most likely coming off the bench with Jesse Edwards and John Bol Ajak.
Meanwhile, 3-star Woody Newton will compete with Robert Braswell for some minutes at the forward position.
Every season, much is unknown before the first game is played. However, this season looks to be particularly challenging, with a lot of programs flying by the seat of their pants. In times like these, perspective and gratitude are everything. The fact a game is being played Friday at all should be considered a huge win for the Syracuse program.
You can watch the Orange take on Bryant on the ACC Network, with the game tipping off in the Carrier Dome at 3 p.m. EST.