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How did Syracuse Fare in Non-Conference Play?

Syracuse’s non-conference play is officially over. Saturday’s win over Cornell saw SU move to 8-4 on the season, riding a five game win streak. One of those victories, perhaps the most impressive one, came against ACC foe Notre Dame, so the Orange end conference play with a 7-4 record.

How good is that? Well, let’s group them into some categories, starting with “Good Wins.” One is Richmond in the first game of the Empire Classic. The Spiders made the tournament last year, but aren’t having the same kind of success, ranked near the bottom of KenPom’s top 100. However, it was the first game SU had played outside the Dome and it forced the Orange’s freshman to grow up quickly in an overtime game.

The other that goes under “Good Wins” is Georgetwon. Not because of the opponent, obviously, the Hoyas have beaten one Power 6 opponent over the last two seasons, which was, of course, the Orange last year. It’s the way SU did it that was impressive. After a slow start, Syracuse took control of the game in the mid-way through the first half and kept control throughout the second half, unlike last year where SU blew a halftime lead.

The Orange then ran away with it in the final few minutes, turning a consistent 8-10 point lead into a 17-point blowout. So, while the opponent quality wasn’t high, the performance was impressive.

There are two that go under the “Bad Loss” category. Colgate and Bryant both went to the tournament last year. They’re veteran teams who are well-coached and know how to play together. They took advantage of a young SU team that was still getting acclimated to each other, and, for many of them, the college game itself.

But, you still can’t lose to Colgate and Bryant at home. Syracuse has significantly more talent than both of those teams. One mid-major loss? Unfortunate, but it happens. Two? Unacceptable, no matter the makeup of the team.

The St. John’s game goes in the “shrug your shoulders” category. The Johnnies are 11-1 and KenPom’s 50th best team in the country. They’re certainly a formidable opponent and SU took them to overtime. It would be a nice win to have, but it’s far from an inexcusable or even a bad loss.

Illinois goes under this same category because of Syracuse’s response after that 29-point blowout loss. The Orange didn’t belong on the same floor as the Illini. It sent the fanbase into a panic, with many saying it was rock bottom for the program. It was a bad moment, but the fact that Syracuse has responded with a five game win streak has made it far more palatable.

SU won the other games it was supposed to win-Lehgh, Northeastern, Oakland, Monmouth, and Cornell. So, what grade do the Orange get for their non-conference performance? C+. It can’t be any higher than that because of the two mid-major losses, and it could reasonably be lower because of the lack of impressive wins.

But, it’s important to remember that this team is young. It was always going to take time for the young players to acclimate and for the squad as a whole to gel. Grading on that curve, it wasn’t a great slate, but it could have been much worse.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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