Key Losses: C Craig Forth (4.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg), G Josh Pace (10.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.8 apg), F Hakim Warrick (21.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg)
Postseason: NCAA: Lost to Vermont 60–57 in the first round
Bay City, MI/Oak Hill (VA) Academy
Watertown, NY/Redshirt 2004-05
Devendorf earned McDonald's All-American honors while playing for Oak Hill Academy last season. Boeheim thinks he could be the Big East's top freshman. Onuaku is considered a project, but he's a massive presence in the low post. Rautins, the son of former Orange great Leo Rautins, has a sweet shooting stroke. He played on Canada's under-21 team last year at the world championships in Argentina.
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There will be some significant changes at Syracuse this season, changes made necessary by the departure of three senior starters -- Hakim Warrick, Craig Forth and Josh Pace.
Warrick represents the biggest loss. The Orange depended heavily on the 6-foot-8 forward last season, and Warrick responded with an All-America performance. He averaged 21.4 points and 8.6 rebounds and was named the Big East's Player of the Year. With Warrick now off to the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies, Syracuse will undergo an extreme makover.
The Orange might as well turn their jerseys inside-out this season, because the dump it inside to Warrick approach is out and the outside-oriented offense is in.
Syracuse won 27 games last season, but its stunning loss to Vermont in the first round of the NCAA tournament accentuated a season-long deficiency. Other than Gerry McNamara, the Orange had no one who could shoot the basketball consistently outside of 15 feet. McNamara made 107 3-pointers. No other Syracuse player made as many as 20.
"We won 27 games with one guy who could shoot," coach Jim Boeheim says. "One guy. We won 27 games and had a tough loss at the end."
Boeheim thinks Louie McCroskey and Demetris Nichols can become better shooters once they're given the opportunity -- and a mandate -- to shoot. Also, incoming freshman Eric Devendorf, a confident shooter, could challenge for a starting job.
Three members of Syracuse's junior class will step into much larger roles across the frontline this season.
Terrence Roberts will fill Warrick's power forward spot. An incredible athlete, Roberts oozes potential, but Warrick blocked his path. Roberts started the last six games of the 2004-05 season when Boeheim went with a big lineup. He opened eyes last summer by earning a spot on the USA's under-21 team.
Darryl Watkins should take over at center. He's more athletic than Forth and should be a fierce rebounder. He has an NBA body, which he bulked up and sculpted over the summer.
This is a make-or-break year for Nichols, who has yet to capitalize on starting opportunities in his first two years.
Another wild card is Matt Gorman, a 6-9 senior who redshirted last season. Gorman could see time at both center and power forward.
McNamara prepared himself for his senior season with more intensity and focus than he has in any previous summer. He made the USA World University Games team, spending most of his time at the point. Without Warrick drawing double-teams down low, there's going to be more of a need for McNamara to create shots for himself and his teammates.
McCroskey started 16 games as a sophomore. He had some good moments, just not enough, and he lost his starting job. He's got to shoot better, and that includes the free throw line, where he made just 20-of-40 attempts last season.
Devendorf gives Syracuse another creator-type on the perimeter. He's not a point guard, but he is a good ball-handler. In fact, Oak Hill coach Steve Smith had to badger Devendorf to take more 3-pointers instead of always driving to the hoop.
Josh Wright, a jet-like point guard, saw very little time as a freshman. He won't unseat McNamara; his challenge is to out-play McCroskey and Devendorf and convince Boeheim to move McNamara to the off-guard spot.
At any other school with any other coach, the loss of a player like Warrick would be cause for doom and gloom. Throw in a pair of veterans like Forth and Pace and the drop-off would seem unavoidable.
But don't expect Boeheim to join in with the Chicken Little crowd. The Carrier Dome's roof isn't falling. "We've had a numerous number of sophomores over the years who averaged five points a game and then came back the next year and averaged 12 or 14," Boeheim says. "And we have four of those guys."
Boeheim was referring to his four juniors -- Roberts, McCroskey, Nichols and Watkins. It was just two years ago that Boeheim was calling this group one of his best recruiting classes ever, possibly better than the 2002 class that included Carmelo Anthony and McNamara.
And while the main man this year will be McNamara, it will be the members of that junior class who determine whether Boeheim can get Syracuse to the NCAA tournament for the 25th time in 30 seasons.