Syracuse basketball vs. Pace: What Orange fans learned from the exhibition game

Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

The Syracuse men's basketball season began Thursday with an exhibition game against Pace University. Though, he's not a big fan of preseason games SB Nation New York's Jared Smith did learn a few things from the game.

The Syracuse Orange defeated the Pace Setters, 99-63, Thursday night in a men's basketball exhibition game at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse senior forward James Southerland led all scorers with 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting while sophomore point guard Michael Cater-Williams tallied 16 points and dished out seven assists.

Overall, the Orange had six players score in double figures and shot an impressive 57.8-percent from the field including making 50-percent (7-for-14) from behind the 3-point arc.

Though, the numbers were off-the-charts good it was expected the No. 9-ranked team in the nation could post these types of stats against a Division III program, which last year finished 13-14 overall.

And because the Setters were a bit over matched -- Pace didn't have a player taller than 6'7 while the Orange's starting five was listed as 6'4, 6'6, 6'8, 6'9 and 6'9 -- its tough to gauge how well SU really did.

(Note: The same could be said if SU lost. In 2009-10, the Orange were beaten by a Division II opponent, the LeMoyne Dolphins, in the preseason and ended up earning a No. 1 seeded in the NCAA Tournament.)

In all, I dislike breaking down tape on "fake games" such as Thursday's preseason contest. However, there were some things SU fans could take out of the season opener.

DaJuan Coleman can move

I thought the thing that stood out the most was how well the 6'9, 288-pound freshman moved up-and-down and side-to-side on the floor.

Coleman may not be as good of a shot blocker than Fab Melo was, or even as polished as an inside offensive threat, but as a first-year player Coleman can already move better than Melo.

Its so tough to judge how Coleman's performance will transition to Division I opponents or Big East Conference rivals, but there's time to figure that out.

Here's what Jeremy Ryan of SB Nation's Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician saw from SU's diaper dandy:

DaJuan Coleman already looks comfortable and polished with the ball in the low post. It will be great to watch him develop his game this season. He may already be the best post scorer we’ve seen in orange since Arinze Onuaku.

Meanwhile, SNY's Syracuse blog, The Juice, had these observations:

Speaking of DaJuan Coleman, he ran the floor well, had a nice low post repertoire and was quick enough to start at wing. On top of that, he showed a nice touch from the line, hitting all five of his free throws. That being said, I fully expect him to be shooting 50 percent from the line come March with a full season of Syracuse practices under his belt.

Michael Carter-Williams is explosive

The Orange gave up the first basketball of the game, but exploded with a 16-0 run led by sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who scored eight points and one assist during the spurt.

Again, the performance was against Pace, however, Carter-Williams (6'6, 185) showed he can shoot 3-pointers over shorter defenders, run the floor with the leadership of a senior and also drive inside.

To be successful this season, Syracuse will need a play-maker as all three of its go-to guys are no longer on the team due to graduation and the NBA Draft. Carter-Williams showed he could be one of those guys this season.

Michael Carter-Williams looked every bit the go-to guy that we’ve been hearing about in the preseason. He was scoring on all sorts of drives and was also shooting well from 3-point land, hitting both of his attempts.

Orange will play nine players (for now)

In his post-game press conference, head coach Jim Boeheim made it clear his strategy is to play nine players --Carter-Williams, Coleman, C.J Fair, Brandon Triche, James Southerland, Rakeem Christmas, Baye Keita, Trevor Cooney and Jerami Grant -- in different combination throughout the season.

However, anybody who follows SU hoops knows that WILL change as the opponents get better. I can say this because Boeheim did the same thing last season.

At the start of the year, the Orange were deep and used it to their advantage (in a 62-56 victory over Marshall, SU played 10 guys at least 10 minutes or more).

However, the trend changed as Boeheim learned which players he could trust in big-game situations (in a 71-68 loss to Cincinnati in the Big East Tournament, SU played seven guys at least 20 minutes or more).

SU's free throw shooting could improve

The Orange made 78.3-percent (18-for-23) of their free throw attempts against Pace. The big men -- Coleman, and Christmas -- went 6-for-6.

It doesn't matter who you play, the foul line doesn't change and this is a good early sign.

Syracuse has one more exhibition game -- Sunday, 4 p.m., against Bloomsberg -- before it begins regular season play. The reagular-season opener will be played in a military-themed game against the No. 20 San Diego St. Aztecs on the deck of the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Midway (8 p.m. ET on MSG).

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