Bit by bit Syracuse fans are getting a feel for what the first part of the 2016-17 basketball season will look like. Syracuse will open the season against Colgate, in the 169th match-up between the two schools, on November 11th. The Orange will then play Holy Cross on November 15th and Monmouth on November 18th.
Syracuse will also host Georgetown and St. John’s in December and renew its rivalry with UConn at Madison Square Garden. One other game that is blocked off is a road game in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
All in all, it is a relatively easy start but a far from easy non-conference schedule. Syracuse will have to battle two rivals who defeated them last season and play a “neutral site” (the Garden is Syracuse’s home away from home) game against the consistent UConn Huskies. Syracuse did down the Huskies in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament last season.
Though a team always wants a tough non-conference schedule, this year’s may prove to be extra difficult for the Orange. Now that it is official that Malachi Richardson will not return to Syracuse, the Orange have officially lost their top three scorers from last season and three of their starting five, all of whom paid huge minutes every night. It doesn’t matter how talented their replacements are, there will be an adjustment period.
The 2015-16 Syracuse team was able to gel pretty well in very early stages of last season because of the core of Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije. When the play of the freshmen fell off, so did the Orange as they lost game after game, including one to the dreadful St. John’s team. The Orange may find it very difficult to beat teams like Georgetown, UConn and whoever they draw from the Big Ten because everything will be new to them.
It is very likely that a freshman in Tyus Battle will be a day one starter and new guys to Syracuse like Paschal Chukwu and John Gillon may see some major minutes. Syracuse will have to find a way through the “easy” first week or so and start to find a way to gel as they enter the very difficult portion of their non-conference schedule.