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13 Syracuse
B.J. Schecter
November 15, 1999
The inconsistent Orangemen have lots of talent, but winning may be a matter of Hart
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November 15, 1999

13 Syracuse

The inconsistent Orangemen have lots of talent, but winning may be a matter of Hart

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Damone Brown



9.5 ppg


Ryan Blackwell



7.8 rpg


Etan Thomas



4.0 bpg


Allen Griffin



7.9 ppg


Jason Hart



13.9 ppg

1998-99 record: 21-12 Final rank (coaches' poll): unranked

Returning Starter

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim gets a puzzled look on his face as he tries to explain the Orangemen's wildly erratic 21-12 performance last season. With his top seven players back, including all five starters, Boeheim would like to feel excited, but he isn't sure exactly what to expect. "Last year we either played really well and won easily or we played horribly and got killed," says Boeheim. "It was one of the strangest things I've ever been through because I couldn't figure out my team. If we're not more consistent, we're not going anywhere."

Syracuse started last season 6-0 and beat Indiana in the Maui Classic, only to lose to Ohio at home two games later. The Orangemen easily beat Seton Hall, Villanova and then-No. 1 UConn on the road but lost badly to all three at home. Part of the problem was the lack of outside shooting- Syracuse made only 31.1% of its three-pointers—something guard Jason Hart has been quick to remind his teammates.

Before returning to campus this fall, Hart called all of his teammates from his home in Los Angeles. He asked them if they had been working on their outside shooting. He also asked if they were ready to dedicate themselves for the next six months. Hart has taken it upon himself to play a bigger leadership role this season and says the team has found the drive and focus it lacked. "There is no excuse for what happened last year," says Hart, who led the team with an average of 13-9 points per game. "We have to keep our heads together, and we have to hit our shots."

Much of Syracuse's success hinges on 6'9" senior center Etan Thomas. He can block shots—he averaged 4.0 a game last season and needs 106 rejections to break Patrick Ewing's Big East record of 247—but he must be more aggressive around the basket if he's going to increase his scoring from last season's 12.3 points per game. If Thomas gives the Orange a bigger presence in the middle, it will open the way for 6'8" junior forward Damone Brown, a slashing scorer who Boeheim says has a chance to be Syracuse's best player.

"This is the most experience I've ever had coming back," says Boeheim. "We'll be deeper, quicker and more athletic than we've been in the past. If we can learn to be consistent, we'll be awfully good."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]