The Syracuse basketball team has been on lockdown since Nov. 15 when Jim Boeheim announced he tested positive for COVID-19.
The shutdown ended on Thanksgiving, and the Orange will have one day of practice before hosting Bryant on Friday in an empty Carrier Dome in the season opener for both teams.
"They're pretty seasoned. Practice has been longer than it's ever been," Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack said earlier this week. "They've been in elite physical shape for quite some time. They've been ready to play games for quite some time."
Syracuse is picked sixth in the ACC preseason poll -- two spots higher than last season -- with Virginia selected first.
Elijah Hughes is off to the NBA's Utah Jazz, but the Orange have the rest of their rotation players back from a season ago, including guards Buddy Boeheim (15.3 ppg, 37 percent from 3-point range) and Joe Girard (12.4 ppg, 3.5 apg).
Syracuse's vaunted zone defense allowed opponents to shoot 66 percent at the rim last season -- 338th in the country out of 351 teams. That was compounded by the Orange only securing 69.5 percent of their defensive rebounds -- 328th in the country.
"Our problem wasn't the zone," Boeheim said. "It was simply that we weren't getting the help we usually get inside."
Bryant was scheduled to open its season on Wednesday at home against Stony Brook, but the game was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns outside of either team.
The Bulldogs finished 15-17 last year in coach Jared Grasso's second season.
Their defense improved from last in the conference in Grasso's first season to third, mostly because of 6-foot-8 forward Hall Elisias, who set a school record with 78 blocks, good for 15th in the nation in blocks per game (2.6).
"When he's healthy and feeling right, I think he's a game-changer because of what he does defensively and what he does on the backboard," Grasso said.
Bryant will need to find a replacement for Adam Grant's 16.3 points per game, but the Northeast Conference's reigning rookie of the year, Michael Green III (9.3 ppg, 3.1 apg) and four-time NEC Rookie of the Week Charles Pride (8.2 ppg, 5 rpg), who is a Syracuse native, should be better with a year's experience.
"I would say it is disappointing to come home and not be able to play in front of my family or friends,'' Pride, a 6-4 wing who led Liverpool High School to the 2018 New York State championship, said.
--Field Level Media