We’ve heard about it for months, but now, it’s in writing. Syracuse will face Kansas in the Hoophall Miami Invitational on December 2, 2017. This is just the second time that these two teams have met since the Orange beat the Jayhawks to claim its first ever National Championship.
This is hopefully the start of more upper-echelon non-conference opponents on the schedule. It seems that aside from last year’s miraculous Final Four run, Syracuse has lacked luster in recent years. Sure, the Orange has played some quality opponents in non-ACC play over the past couple years, including this season against Wisconsin and South Carolina, but they are not the programs that have basketball powerhouse written across their forehead. Coming into this season, the Gamecocks were not an opponent anyone expected to be Final Four worthy, therefore, the loss did not carry as much importance in the moment.
What the Orange needs is more big games, a la Kansas. Aside from the mandatory Big Ten Challenge games, we have not seen a non-conference opponent quite like Kansas in a while. In fact, you have to look back to 2010 to find a non-conference powerhouse. Syracuse played (and defeated) Michigan State in a battle of top 10 teams at Madison Square Garden in the Jimmy V Classic.
The gap between games of this caliber is way too large for a school that prides itself on hoops. However, this trend could change with John Wildhack as the school’s athletic director. The former executive vice-president of production and programming at ESPN knows what it takes to put a program on the map, given his success in the media industry. With ESPN owning the broadcast rights to many of these prominent showcases, it is certainly possible to see the Orange with a non-ACC opponent like Kansas on the schedule every year. We see teams like Duke and Kentucky play in these high-level showcases, and Syracuse ultimately needs to as well if it wants to keep itself in the conversation of college basketball’s elite programs.
While both rosters will certainly have a different look come December, it’s no secret that both of these teams certainly fell short of their 2017 aspirations. After Jim Boeheim touted this year’s team as one of his best ever, the group fell flat on its face with a second round NIT exit. As for the Jayhawks, they had their National Championship hopes dashed in the Elite 8 against a shorthanded Oregon team.