Who is the Darkhorse Team to watch in College Basketball?

With College Basketball just around the corner, there are many quality teams that aren’t receiving the attention they should be. Multiple squads will start out hot, and fizzle but one team to watch is the Syracuse Orange as they have a young, talented roster.


Syracuse University basketball is one of the winningest programs in modern day NCAA history. The program is ranked fifth in total victories among all Division I Universities, and seventh in all-time win percentage. Their all-time record of 2042-931 includes wins that were vacated by the NCAA as of March 30, 2021. Syracuse has gone to the NCAA Final Four 5 times, with 2 trips to the NCAA Finals, and one National Championship victory. Competing in the tough ACC Conference, with a rugged non-conference schedule, the Orange look to show the nation what they can do with this year’s squad.

Coach Jim Boeheim

Head Coach Jim Boeheim took over as Syracuse’s head coach in 1979-1980 and since then, it has been a wild journey. The Orange have had many winning seasons under Coach Boeheim and in 2003, the program won its first and only national championship to this day. Led by a young freshman named Carmelo Anthony, he and Boeheim developed a strong relationship on and off the court. With an awesome block by Hakim Warrick and only 1.5 seconds on the clock, Syracuse defeated Kansas 81-78 to claim the title. Up until last year, Coach Boeheim never compiled a losing record and his ferocious 2-3 zone defense is recognized as one of toughest defenses to play against. Boeheim is back for another season and is on a mission to carry his squad to only its second national championship.

Recruiting Class

Syracuse has brought in six very talented young freshman and one transfer to it’s 2022 recruiting class. Ranked as the 19th best class, a majority of them will have an opportunity to play significant minutes under Coach Boeheim. The class is headlined by 6 ft 3 combo guard Judah Mintz who is being compared to a bigger and stronger version of former Orange phenom Jonny Flynn. Ranked as a 4-5 star prospect, Mintz is a phenomenal three point shooter, and can be dominant off the dribble as well. He is also a great defender, and can make easy buckets as well. You also have 6 ft 6 guard Quadir Copeland who is versatile and quick for his height. He can also play both guard positions, and is a special scorer.

Those two guys are studs, but the best prospect in my opinion is IMG Academy’s (FL) Justin Taylor. Taylor is very tall and just like Copeland is 6’6″ tall and comes from one of the best academy schools in the country. Florida is usually known for its warm weather, and football prospects, but IMG Academy is deep with basketball prospects too with many 4 and 5 stars coming out of that program. Taylor is the best natural shooter in this recruiting class as he can really knock down the 3, and his length makes him a perfect fit for the 2-3 zone.

Number four is a 6’8″, 190lb forward out of Concord California, who describes a natural forward. Chris Bunch is very tall, but will need to hit the weight room and add on some muscle. The Cali native can hit from 3 point range and has very lengthy arms to fit the 2-3 zone. The 4-star prospect is expected to play on the back end on the SU defense, and create turnovers with his length. Look for this young man to make an impact year 1 or year 2. All I can say is, “6 ft, 7ft, 8ft, Bunch.”

Next is 6’9″, 210 lb, Maliq Brown who is an underrated recruit in this class. Brown is only rated a 3-star recruit, but he plays much higher than his rankings suggest. He is a skilled rebounder who crashes the glass very hard and often. He plays really strong defense and can score inside the paint. He has a high basketball i.q. defensively and has a huge wingspan for the 2-3 zone. He is also strong at the press defense and reminds me of a poor man’s Hakim Warrick. If he turns out to be like Warrick, we may have found a gem prospect here.

Last is 3-star center Peter Carey and he is quite tall to say the least. At 6’11”, 220 lb, Carey is strong offensively, and he is a great dunker. He can slam it in the basket for his size, and he is a smart young man. He can also rebound the basketball, and play above the rim. Finishing inside is his specialty and he could be a gem prospect too. His game compares to current Syracuse Big Jesse Edwards, who was having a career year, prior to his season ending injury.

Now, we’ve heard Jim Boeheim say it many times before, but he believes this recruiting class could be the best one he’s ever had at Syracuse. It has mostly quality, but a ton of quantity with six new guys coming in. They are looking to carry on the winning tradition of Syracuse Basketball. Don’t worry about not being preseason ranked Orange fans. Look at the way football has played this year and they weren’t ranked to start out the year either. Plus, the basketball team will be very young with a total of 9 underclassmen, who will improve as the year goes on. This is also where Boeheim has had his best teams. What’s also exciting is this the first season under the new name the JMA Wireless Dome, so we’ll see if that helps energize the squad this year, and for future recruiting classes.

Returning Starters

Besides the freshmen coming in this year. The Orange return four players from last year who are the only guys on the team with on-court experience. They are the guys who are coming back more motivated after the team posted its first losing record under Coach Boeheim. Let’s meet the returners who will be counted on to help the team get back to its winning ways, and also help mentor the young freshman recruits.

First, you have 6’8″ center Benny Williams who returns for only his sophomore season. As a freshman last year, Williams broke out in a home game against Duke with a career high 14 points, and this year, he will look to build off that one game with many more games like he had in that contest. Williams is now up to 208 lbs, after enrolling at only 185 last year. The 2nd year big has massive potential to be a leading scorer on the team as he has strength inside the hoop and had a sick reverse layup against Duke last year.

Next, you have 6’1″ three point machine Joe Girard III. The Glenns Falls native is returning to the team as a preseason Jerry West Award Watcher for the best shooting guard in the NCAA. Girard comes back as the team’s leader in assists, steals, and three point percentage.

Additionally, there’s Symir Torrance who transferred to the Orange last year from Marquette. He’s looking to return to play for his hometown school. The Syracuse native was mainly used as a depth guard who would come off the bench to spare minutes and be active in the 2-3 zone. Torrance has improved his offensive game from last year and is only one of three seniors with the other two being Joe Girard, and Jesse Edwards. With a total of 9 underclassmen on the team, Torrance’s playing time and senior leadership must go hand-hand for Syracuse’s chances of success this year.

Lastly, the third senior on the team, Jesse Edwards returns to the 315 looking to playing a full season this year. Last year, he was on his way to a career season, but unfortunately, suffered a season ending injury by breaking his wrist on Feb. 10. He will look to build off that junior season and come back to try to become one of the best bigs in both the ACC and in the country.


What do you think Orange fans? How will this young squad do with a total of 9 underclassmen on it? Will their youth and inexperience show, or will their talent take them over the top this season?

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