Syracuse, NY – The fifth-ranked Syracuse Orange have the talent in place for a Final Four run in 2012, and their season begins today against Fordham at the Carrier Dome.
Fans of the Rams can't feel great about their team's chances in this game, especially after watching Fordham lose to Northwood University in a recent exhibition. The Rams are coming off yet another miserable season in which they posted only seven wins in 28 tries, including a dreadful 1-15 mark against league foes. They were picked to finish last in the Atlantic 10 Conference to the surprise of no one, and head coach Tom Pecora simply doesn't have the talent to compete with most solid teams.
The Orange were anything but impressive in the first half of their most recent exhibition game against the College of St. Rose, as they found themselves deadlocked at intermission. Jim Boeheim's team was dominant in the second half, however, and that came as no surprise considering the fact that four starters are back from last season's 27-8 team. Syracuse tied for third in the Big East Conference a year ago, and the loss of only two letterwinners has expectations sky high.
Syracuse owns a 26-16 series lead over Fordham, and the most recent win over the Rams came in 2007.
Despite their woes, the Rams do have a standout performer on the roster in returning starter, Chris Gaston (15.9 ppg). In addition to this scoring exploits, Gaston is a rebounding machine, having secured 11.3 rpg last year, a mark that ranked among the national leaders. If not for 51.7 percent shooting from the foul line, Gaston would have averaged even more at the offensive end. Branden Frazier (11.0 ppg) and Alberto Estwick (10.1 ppg) are back in place after scoring in double figures as well, but both have plenty of room for improvement after shooting below 39 percent from the field. In the exhibition loss to Northwood, Frazier shot a stellar 11-of-15 from the field en route to 26 points, while Gaston added 23 points and 13 boards while shooting 8-of-12. Unfortunately, the rest of the team combined for 22 points on 9-of-28 shooting.
Despite losing Rick Jackson (13.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 86 blocks), the Orange are loaded for another run at national glory. Kris Joseph, a member of the preseason All-Big East First Team, was not only the leading scorer for the team with his 14.3 ppg, but he showed tremendous versatility at both ends of the court. He figures to get plenty of help from energetic senior Scoop Jardine (12.5 ppg, 55 steals), a Philadelphia native who put up some impressive numbers a year ago. It remains to be seen if he can replicate his 205 assists over the course of 35 games, an average of 5.9 per game which was second in the conference and 20th nationally. Fellow guard Brandon Triche (11.1 ppg), like Jardine, has rarely seen a perimeter shooting opportunity that he hasn't liked.