The Orange are just four years removed from back-to-back championships, but now are in one of the worst slumps in the program's history. They haven't made the Final Four in three straight years and didn't win the regular season Big East title for the first time ever last season. Now, the senior class might be the first to leave Syracuse without a national championship since the 1970s. Here's a look at the group that has talent to make a tournament run this year.
Syracuse had its biggest losses on offense. Tommy Palasek moved on to the MLL and Tim Desko graduated. But the Orange have added two big transfers in Mike Daniello and Nicky Galasso. The former Johns Hopkins and North Carolina stars, respectively, can provide tons of athleticism and scoring prowess to go along with creaseman, captain, and last year's leading scorer Derek Maltz. If the unit gels quickly, it's going to be a good one.
The Orange struggled with midfield performance last season. Hakeem Lecky didn't live up to expectations with seven points. Jojo Marasco had people questioning the 22 on his chest after only scoring 12 goals as a middie. Now, Syracuse needs Marasco to have a huge year to fill the void left by Bobby Eilers graduation (22 goals). Luke Cometti stepped up with 11 goals in his first year on campus. He's a candidate to move onto the first midfield line and provide some scoring.
Syracuse is just fine here. Brian Megill was amongst the NCAA leaders with 37 caused turnovers last year. Matt Harris wasn't shabby with 14, David Hamlin had 14 as well, and Brandon Mullins forced 13 as a freshman. That whole unit is back, plus stud short-stick middie Steve Ianzito. There isn't much weakness here.
This is an area of improvement for the Orange. They didn't decide on a goalie until halfway through last season. Syracuse rotated Matt Lerman and Dominic Lamolinara before eventually settling on true freshman Bobby Wardwell in the cage. He was their only goalie to stop more than 50% of the shots he faced and has a goals against average of 8.85. Now that Wardwell's seen game experience and has a full year to prepare for his sophomore campaign, expect bigger and better things from the goalie that helped guide Syracuse beat Princeton in his first career game.
It all falls on Chris Daddio now. Ricky Buhr isn't listed on the fall roster, Ralph D'Agostino is gone after a decent freshman year, and using Megill at the X isn't desirable. Daddio was excellent on the clamp last season, but he struggled on the ground balls for a unit that only won 46% of draws. With his great wingman Kevin Drew now playing in the MLL, the GBs are going to fall more on Daddio than ever. He has to be better than his 49% from last year or else Syracuse has to turn to a freshman like Conor Pequigney for help.
Overall, there are two X-factors for Syracuse. The midfield has to step up to replace Drew and Eilers. Daddio has to be successful at the X. If each of those wind up being successful, it's not far-fetched to see a Final Four run in the Orange's future.