Out of Bounds: 'Cuse Orange poised for a title run

It's been almost eight months.

Eight long months for Syracuse fans to soak in the disappointment from last season's second-round loss to Marquette University in the NCAA tournament, wallow in self-pity and complain about the referees.

But as the residents of Upstate New York prepare for what is sure to be another harsh winter, there is a level of optimism here that not even the bitterest blizzard could diminish.

That is because Syracuse has a team with "more weapons since 2003," according to head coach Jim Boeheim. Of course, in 2003 the Orange walked away with a national title.

Syracuse returns nine of its 10 top scorers from last season, including four starters – Rick Jackson being the lone departure. They have one of the deepest teams in the country, and an impressive mixture of experience, talent and youth.

Syracuse's success this year will depend primarily on a trio of experienced players: seniors Antonio "Scoop" Jardine and Kris Joseph, along with junior Brandon Triche. All three have shown that they have the skills to dominate the game.

Jardine is the most enigmatic of the bunch. The talented guard hailing from Philadelphia is just as likely to chuck up an air ball from 25 feet as he is to slash his way to the bucket for an acrobatic layup. He can score 10 points and commit four turnovers in a matter of minutes. Though he is frustrating to watch, when Jardine goes, so goes the Orange.

Triche is another talented guard. Though he was recruited as a point guard, he now starts at shooting guard, and plays second fiddle to Jardine at the point. ‘Cuse fans look for him to improve his shooting percentage and to become a more consistent offensive threat.

Joseph is potentially the best of the bunch, though he was somewhat of a disappointment last season. Pegged as a Wesley Johnson-like talent, Joseph's season was slowed by a concussion and chronic knee tendinitis. That knee pain limited Joseph's explosiveness and hurt his shooting ability, but the senior forward dedicated himself to rehab in the offseason.

After these three stars, Syracuse has a slew of talented sophomores and freshmen that will compete for playing time.

Sophomore Fab Melo, a seven-foot center from Brazil, came to Syracuse as one of the top recruits in the nation. But last season he often looked confused and out of shape. Melo worked hard this offseason to improve his game and lost 30 pounds.

Behind Melo is classmate Baye Moussa Keita and freshman Rakeem Christmas. Both look to contribute mainly on the defensive end.

Sophomores C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters also expect to contribute more this season. Fair is levelheaded and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Waiters is explosive, but not always a team player.

Trevor Cooney and Michael Carter-Williams complete the freshmen class, and both hope to provide a spark off the bench.

This year's Syracuse squad is a fast, athletic team that can run up and down the court with ease and play stingy defense.

Opponents beware: This team is for real.