The ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchups were announced on Thursday, with Syracuse scheduled to travel to Michigan to take on the Wolverines. Last season, the Orange hosted Indiana at the Dome – the first ACC/Big Ten Challenge for SU. The Orange came out on top 69-52.
The last time Syracuse played a game against Michigan: the 2013 Final Four, where the Wolverines won 61-56 to advance to the NCAA National Championship game.
Both of these programs had stellar seasons this past year, but next season both will be full of inexperienced talent – especially Syracuse.The Orange are losing freshman point guard Tyler Ennis and sophomore forward Jerami Grant to the NBA Draft. Senior CJ Fair will graduate in a couple of weeks. These were three of the main pieces that kept the team together in games. The only two starters returning: Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas. This means the rest of the team will be young, but there is incoming talent with Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough, both of whom are expected to make a big impact.
When Syracuse became a member of the ACC, it was a good way of getting competitive opponents early in the season before conference play began. SU got to play in the Maui Invitational, as well as take part in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Before ACC play began last year, the Orange played against No. 18 Baylor, Minnesota, California, and Indiana. Before joining the ACC, SU’s non-conference opponents were mainly against small schools in New York or neighboring states.
Opening the schedule against a school like Michigan, who is starting to bring back its dominance with an appearance in the National Championship game in 2013 and then an Elite 8 appearance in 2014, is going to be big for recruitment. Those big games interest recruits; they show commitment to building the program, meeting expectations, NBA scouting, and a chance to play in big cities, arenas, and in front of many fans. Plus, playing against tough opponents is only a way to get better.
This game will be of very high interest because of the 2013 Final Four. The name on the front of the jersey will be the same, but the names on the back will be very different. For Syracuse, it won’t have Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche, Fair, Baye Keita, or James Southerland. For Michigan, it won’t have Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mitch McGary, or Nik Stauskas.
Looking at the matchup against Indiana from this past season, the Hoosiers were not the same team they were in 2013. It lost its two big players, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, to the NBA Draft. IU was a No. 1 team for much of the season, and a favorite to win the National Championship.
So was Syracuse.
Posted by: Austin Pollack