With the Syracuse basketball regular season approaching in less than two weeks, we take a look at the top five non-conference games this year.
- Michigan: This year’s ACC/Big 10 matchup is a rematch of the Final Four game between these two teams from a few seasons ago. Syracuse is hoping for a different result this time around as the Orange head to Ann Arbor to face #24 Michigan. Michigan lost Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas to the NBA, but expect a breakout year from Caris LeVert who averaged over 13 points a game last year. The Wolverines will be a great test in a tough environment before ACC play starts.
- Villanova: It is great to see an old Big East rivalry live on after conference realignment. While the series does not have the same flare it did when both teams were playing in the old Big East, the competition level will be just as high as it once was with the Wildcats ranked #12 in the nation. Just like Michigan, Villanova will be a good opponent for the Orange to spot its weaknesses before ACC games. Ryan Arcidiacono is back for the Wildcats for his junior season. If history repeats itself, it will not be good news for Orange fans after what Arcidiacono did to Syracuse two years ago.
- St. John’s: Another great rivalry that was lost with the move to the ACC was with St. John’s. Doc Gross made it a priority to continue the series with the Red Storm, especially when they play at Syracuse’s home away from home, Madison Square Garden. The Orange played the Red Storm at the Garden last year in a game that came down to the last few minutes in an Orange victory. St. John’s was a middle-of-the-pack Big East team who lost in the first round of the NIT Tournament last season. D’Angelo Harrison led the team in scoring last year and will return for his senior campaign.
- California: Syracuse will play in the 2K Classic this year starting with games against Kennesaw State and Hampton at the Dome before playing California in MSG. The winner of that contest will take on either Texas or Iowa in the championship. Syracuse did defeat the Golden Bears last season in Maui behind Tyler Ennis’ 28 points. An early win against a Pac-12 team could get the Orange in a groove for the rest of the 1st half of the season.
- Louisiana Tech: It might not look flashy on the schedule, but there are always a few unknown teams that give the Orange trouble during non-conference play. The Bulldogs could be one of those teams. Alex Hamilton is Louisiana Tech’s dangerous weapon in the backcourt. The junior averaged 14.6 points a game last year and led the Bulldogs to a very respectable 29-8 record before getting ousted in the NIT Quarterfinal by Florida State.
Non-conference play is a great time for the Orange to figure out where it needs to improve. With reliance on freshmen production and questions with consistency from returning players like Rakeem Christmas and Trevor Cooney, Syracuse will have opportunities in the first half to work out the kinks.
Posted: Zephan Mayell