Syracuse has another crucial game on the road tonight against NC State. The Orange are just 10-11 and need to win this game to keep any NCAA Tournament shot alive. The problem is, SU has been atrocious away from home the last two seasons.
Just this season alone, Syracuse has one road win (at Florida State) and a neutral site win (Arizona State in the Bahamas). This gives the Orange a 2-8 combined record away from the Dome, where they suffered a couple of twenty-point losses (Auburn and Duke). There have been close calls, such as choking against Miami and Wake Forest when they lead those games late.
The interesting thing is, this is not just a 2021-22 issue. Despite a much different team, Syracuse also struggled on the road last season going 2-7. In there you have a 20-point loss to Pittsburgh, a 23 point loss to Virginia, and a couple of more double-digit losses to Clemson and Duke.
That Orange squad went 13-1 at home, making up for some of their downfalls on the road. This year’s SU squad is just 8-3, tripling last year’s loss total at the Dome in early February.
2021 and 2022 have been very different seasons because of COVID-19 protocols, and the number of fans allowed into the building. But, the constant among those teams has been Syracuse’s starting backcourt.
Joe Girard has scored 20 points five times this season. Only one of those came on the road when he was making garbage times 3’s against Miami when the game was out of reach. It’s a similar story for Buddy Boeheim. The senior has scored over 20 points 11 times this season. Only three of those have come away from home, and only one was a true road game (when he shot 9-23 at Pitt).
If you look at the numbers, it’s written crystal clear why Syracuse struggles on the road. Its starting backcourt has failed to show up and play as well as they have at home. Syracuse has three road tests in its next four games that they must have to keep hope alive.
NC State, Boston College, and Virginia Tech are all below the Orange in the ACC standings, and SU faces each of them in the next ten days. A loss against any of them could put the NCAA Tournament chances on life support.
The main problem is, these are the three easiest road games Syracuse has left. The Orange still have to play at Notre Dame and North Carolina, two games that will take place over a stretch of five games in ten days in late February. Those teams are near the top of the conference standings and would be much-needed for a tournament resume.
Syracuse has five road games left. They have to win at least four of them to have a shot at playing in March. For them to do that, Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard need to show up and play well on a nightly basis. That starts tonight against NC State. We’ll see what versions of SU’s starting backcourt made the trip to Raleigh.