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Eighth-ranked Orange open with Big Red

11:19 AM, Nov 8, 2013   |    comments
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Syracuse, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The eighth-ranked Syracuse Orange open up their 2013-14 campaign at home, as they welcome the Cornell Big Red to the Carrier Dome on Friday.

Jim Boeheim's Orange were once again in the thick of the national title race a year ago, finishing 30-10 overall and making a run to the Final Four. This season will be a first for Syracuse, which transitions to the Atlantic Coast Conference after a a celebrated stay among the Big East elite. With three starters back, including ACC Preseason Player of the Year C.J. Fair, a smooth transition to arguably the nation's best conference is expected.

Bill Courtney's Big Red are coming off a 13-18 season, including a 5-9 mark in the Ivy League. Courtney definitely has his work cut out for him, as he must replace four starters from last year, as well as start the season without his only real commodity, All-Ivy First-Teamer Shonn Miller, who is sidelined with an injury to start the campaign.

These two programs are certainly no strangers to one another, as this game marks the 119th all-time meeting in a series that dates back to the 1900-01 season. The Orange hold an 87-31 advantage all-time and have won the last 33 meetings.

It seems like an eon since the Big Red were boasting of three straight Ivy League championships (2008-10). Having to rebuild a team that was five games under .500 isn't necessarily a bad thing, but Courtney may struggle early on to fill all the voids left by graduation, including the losses of Johnathan Gray (10.0 ppg) and Errick Peck (9.7 ppg). To make matters worse, Miller (11.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 1.9 spg) is the team's most complete player but is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Nolan Cressler (9.3 ppg) drained over 40 percent from behind the arc as a reserve last season, and will be expected to carry a larger portion of the scoring load, especially early on. Devin Cherry (6.2 ppg) will be called on to do the same. Freshmen David Onuorah (6-9, 230) and Robert Hatter (6-2, 165) will be force-fed minutes right away up front and in the backcourt, respectively.

Jim Boeheim did it again last season, taking a talented team far into the postseason. The losses of Brandon Triche (13.6 ppg), Michael Carter-Williams (11.9 ppg, 7.3 apg) and James Southerland (13.3 ppg) cannot be minimized, but a veteran core, highlighted by Fair, an influx of young talent and Boeheim's patented zone defense should pay immediate dividends in the ACC. Freshman Tyler Ennis (6-2, 180) will get the opportunity to run the point. Other likely candidates to contribute in the backcourt are fellow freshman Ron Patterson (6-3, 195), sophomore Trevor Cooney (6-4, 195) and Duke transfer Michael Gbinije (6-7, 200). While fresh faces will man the backcourt, the frontcourt is loaded, with the ultra-athletic Fair (14.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg), DaJuan Coleman (4.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and Rakeem Christmas (5.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg).

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