23rd-ranked Orange eye up Owls in season opener

Nov 14, 2014 - 4:29 PM Syracuse, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The 23rd-ranked Syracuse Orange top off their 2014-15 season on Friday evening, as they play host to the Kennesaw State Owls at the Carrier Dome in the opening game of the 2K Sports Classic.

This game pits the longest tenured coach in the nation (Jim Boeheim - 39 years) against one of the shortest (Jimmy Lallathin - first season),

The Orange were once again at the top of their game in 2014-15, making a smooth transition from the Big East to the ACC, as they finished the year 28-6 overall, with a 14-4 league ledger, good for second place in the talent- rich ACC. As a result of the successful campaign, a couple of high profile players have moved on to the NBA, but Boeheim always finds a way to fill the voids while keeping the Orange in the thick of things on a national level.

Lallethin's job at Kennesaw State is a much more daunting task. The Owls are coming off a miserable 2013-14 campaign that featured just six wins overall (6-25), including a mere 3-15 league mark. Despite the poor showing, Lallethin was named the head coach after serving in an interim capacity down the stretch last year. The team does return four starters from last year's squad and the hope is that familiarity breeds better results in 2014-15.

This is the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood.

The Owls won the same amount of games in 2013-14 as they did in the previous two seasons combined, but the team still found itself in the A-Sun basement when all was said and done. Officially hired to take over on a full basis, Lallathin will have a chance to grow with the young squad that returns nine letterwinners to the fold, most notably senior guard Delbert Love (12.6 ppg, 65 3-pointers). Junior Orlando Coleman (9.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and senior Nate Rucker (9.1 ppg) are solid frontcourt pieces, with both shooting greater than 51 percent from the floor a year ago. Sophomore forward Damien Wilson (6-7, 190) will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact after transferring from Memphis.

Syracuse has been very tough of late thanks to strong play at the point. A couple of years ago it was Michael Carter-Williams that bolted to the NBA early and this past season Tyler Ennis (12.9 ppg, 5.5 apg) was one and done. This year's frontcourt will also need an identity with the losses of C.J. Fair (16.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Jerami Grant (12.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Boeheim is likely to go with another youngster at the point and the hope is that 6-3 freshman Kaleb Joseph fits the bill. A top-50 recruit, Joseph is a facilitator with a ton of energy. Harnessing it will be job one. Perimeter scoring will come in the form of junior guard Trevor Cooney (12.1 ppg). The departures of Fair and Grant up front cannot be minimized. Rakeem Christmas (6-9, 250) is a force down low, especially defensively. A healthy DaJuan Coleman (6-9, 280) will provide another big body and freshman Chris McCullough (6-10, 220) can block shots as well. Junior forward Michael Gbinije could surprise a lot of people with more playing time.

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