Syracuse basketball had one of its worst seasons ever in 2021-22, and the worst ever under Jim Boeheim when it did not reach .500. The Orange had the 75th highest non-conference strength of schedule according to kenpom.com, which is not great, but compare that to previous years.
In 2021, the Orange were 188th, 2020 was 224th, 156th in 2019, 163rd in 2018, and 248th in 2017. Guess what happened in all of those seasons? The Orange had a better record than they did in 2022 because they did not schedule tough opponents in the non-conference.
The numbers back it up, even with those easier schedules, Syracuse still made it to the NCAA Tournament. Playing a tough non-conference schedule, especially with a young, inexperienced team, would be catastrophic.
Syracuse fans will still show up in big numbers in December no matter who the Orange are playing. No recruit is visiting Syracuse in December, they’re coming in February to big ACC games. December is right in the middle of their high school season anyway.
Playing tough games might build character and give opportunities to build a resume, but it could also take the wind out of a team’s sails early, and demoralize a group. Last year’s game against Colgate signaled what was to come for SU.
Auburn and Villanova were both two seeds in the NCAA Tournament, the Orange had no business being on the same court as them. Then they went out and lost to Georgetown, who was the worst team in the Big East.
Georgetown is a fixture on the schedule, but when the schedule goes from Tallahassee to NYC and then down to DC in eight days, a team is going to be drained, physically and mentally, by the end of it.
A more “normal” SU non-conference schedule would be to their benefit. One tournament against power conference teams, but no Jimmy V Classic, no game against Kansas in Miami, nothing like that.
Syracuse has its best chance to win as many games as possible for Jim Boeheim to get back to 1,000 wins by scheduling easier non-conference foes, even if it may not look exciting on paper. If they have more winnable games in November and December, the Orange put themselves in their best position to succeed in February and March.
Let them make mistakes against Bryant and Lehigh that will be corrected for UNC and Virginia. The non-conference is a time to grow, experiment, and win games, not get smacked around by better teams.