Top 5 Syracuse sports storylines to look for in 2016
Logan Reidsma | Staff Photographer
As 2016 starts, Syracuse puts an NCAA investigation and sanctions, two national titles and the hiring of a new football coach in the past and gets to work on a fresh slate. From the men’s basketball team’s return to the postseason to the future of the Carrier Dome, here are the five biggest storylines surrounding Syracuse sports entering the new year.
Dino Babers enters first season as football head coach
Babers took over the reigns as Syracuse’s head coach from Scott Shafer in early December. The next eight months will be filled with anticipation for the new offensive scheme Babers plans to install, but it won’t be fully on display until Sept. 3 against Colgate. Babers is tasked with turning around a football team that’s won just seven games in the past two seasons, but he expressed enthusiasm at his introductory press conference. He told those in attendance to close their eyes and imagine a raucous Carrier Dome, a suffocating defense and an electrifying offense that doesn’t huddle. Whether that becomes a reality or not, only time will tell.
Men’s basketball team returns to postseason
While it’s too early to tell whether or not Syracuse will make the NCAA Tournament, the Orange will be participating in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Coming off a season in which the Orange self-imposed a postseason ban, SU is eligible again, but has already lost three nonconference games. That had only happened four times in the last 25 years prior to this season. The first three, Syracuse missed the NCAA Tournament and played in the National Invitation Tournament instead. The most recent time, last season, the Orange wasn’t eligible for the postseason. If Syracuse misses the NCAA Tournament, it would only be the third time during Jim Boeheim’s tenure the Orange have missed the tournament in back-to-back seasons.
The future of the Carrier Dome
The Carrier Dome enters its 36th year in 2016, and discussions about its future have been ongoing. Chancellor Kent Syverud said in October that Syracuse is “teed up” for a decision this academic year.
The three possible options for the Dome are to replace the current roof, install a new roof structure while renovating the entire building or build a different stadium off-site. The third option is the least likely, according to university and city leaders.
National championship defenders and contenders
Syracuse’s field hockey and men’s cross country teams are both coming off national championship seasons and look to defend their titles next fall. Men’s soccer, which made the Final Four, returns most of its roster and should also contend for a title. Field hockey’s national title was SU’s first-ever title in a women’s sport after reaching the Final Four in three of the last four years. The cross-country team only graduates one — Martin Hehir — of its top three runners, which includes sophomores Colin Bennie and Justyn Knight.
Meanwhile, the men’s lacrosse team is ranked eighth in Inside Lacrosse’s preseason poll and attempts to end its six-year championship drought, its longest since the inception of the NCAA tournament. The women’s lacrosse team has reached the Final Four in each of the past four seasons, but hasn’t come away with a national title.
Eric Dungey’s health
Quarterback Eric Dungey is coming off a freshman season in which he missed parts of four games after being hit in the head against Central Michigan and Louisville. He suffered other blows to the head against Virginia and Pittsburgh but didn’t come out of those games. Coaches said they tried teaching him to slide in the open field and throw the ball away, but he often didn’t heed their advice. Entering 2016, his health is the biggest question mark for Syracuse football, outside of what Babers will bring to the table. In eight games, Dungey racked up 1,298 yards on 105-of-176 passes while throwing 11 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He also ran for 351 yards on 91 carries. With an offseason to rest, he is Syracuse’s best quarterback, but his health will be worth watching.
Published on December 31, 2015 at 3:50 pm