Last season’s non-conference schedule featured a trip to the Bahamas, a national TV showcase against Villanova, and a battle in DC with Georgetown. The results were… underwhelming. Syracuse finished 6-5 outside of the ACC last year, including a dreadful 1-4 in the above games. The one other loss? The Colgate disaster in which the Orange lost to the Raiders for the first time since JFK was president. Those results have clearly impacted how Jim Boeheim and company have scheduled this year’s slate.
This season’s non-conference schedule (so far) features Lehigh, Colgate, Bryant, Illinois, Oakland, Georgetown, Monmouth, Cornell, and two games at the Empire Classic Thanksgiving week against a combo of St. John’s, Richmond, and Temple. The Raiders, Bulldogs, Illini, and Spiders all made the NCAA Tournament last year, with the latter two advancing to the Round of 32. Not exactly a ton of tournament success.
Simply put, this is not a difficult slate. There are only three high-major schools, two of which came nowhere close to the Big Dance last year. As for the other, Illinois just lost one of the most dominant big men in recent college hoops memory, so it shouldn’t be as tough an opponent as years past.
As such, the only opponent SU fans shouldn’t be angry about losing to is Illinois. A loss to any of the other schools would add to what has been an embarrassing downfall to this program. Last year’s loss to Colgate was horrible enough, imagine another one? Georgetown won a grand total of one more game after it defeated SU in the middle of December. Elsewhere, possible opponents in Brooklyn St. John’s and Temple barely eclipsed .500, and every other school on the schedule should just about be a no-brainer. Take Monmouth for example. Remember this?
While Bryant, Lehigh, and Oakland, and Cornell never made Sportscenter headlines like that, they’re in the same class as Monmouth. Teams Syracuse should beat handily.
Last year’s squad relied on three-point shooting way too much and was as effective defensively as the “Avada Kedavra” curse was on Harry Potter. With a healthy Jesse Edwards and an answer at backup center in Mounir Hima, that automatically improves the interior defense. This year’s freshman class will make Boeheim completely rethink his offensive schemes, given that three-point specialists Buddy Boeheim and Cole Swider are no longer focal points. That being said, Joe Girard is still a huge threat from beyond the arc. With how much more balanced this team is, the losses the Orange suffered to Colgate and Georgetown last year shouldn’t be remotely possible.
It’s not a tough slate in any way, shape, or form. Many think that’s a good thing, but it depends on one’s point of view. Given that the schedule is much easier than last year and that the roster is better all-around, there’s no excuse to lose more than one game before ACC play begins. If that happens, a return to the NCAA Tournament will be far-fetched, and that’s lowballing it.