The key here is not too tricky, but not super easy to the point where you don’t need to play your starters the entire second half. It’s reasonable to assume Georgetown, Colgate, and Cornell will be on the slate again, in addition to the Maui trip and the new ACC-SEC Challenge. If last season’s scheduling tactics are identical to this year’s, that leaves four slots to fill in the non-conference slate. Here are five opponents that would make for appealing games this fall.
Recency bias? Ok, maybe a little bit, but the Knights have taken the college basketball world by storm since their upset of Purdue. While FDU may have lost to Florida Atlantic in the round of 32 and its Head Coach Tobin Anderson (more on him later) left the program, that name alone makes it an intriguing contest. Fairleigh Dickinson played (probably) the best game it will ever play against the Boilermakers, so it’s a game SU should win in theory but wouldn’t be able to take lightly. Speaking of Anderson…
He’s now at Iona, which has dominated the MAAC as of late. The Gaels have qualified for six of the last seven NCAA Tournaments, including two under Rick Pitino. Pitino bolted for greener pastures (again, more on him later) after Iona’s loss to UConn in the first round, but the Gaels established themselves as one of the most consistent mid-majors in the country before he got there. If you’ve already peeked at the next team, you’ll notice a trend…
AKA Pitino’s new team. Even though the Orange couldn’t get the job done against the Red Storm last November, it was admittedly a fun game. It was the first meeting between New York State’s two most historic basketball programs in six years, and there’s no reason to wait that long again.
More on the old Big East later, but this tweet says it all. College basketball historians, especially those across New York, would love for this matchup to be an annual one again.
Similarly to Iona, the Catamounts have been a model of consistency recently. Even though the upset back in 2005 brings back some dark memories, it would be a fun matchup. Vermont has won the America East two straight seasons and made four of the last six NCAA Tournaments. The Catamounts have given some top-tier teams a fight in the Big Dance as well; 4th-seeded Arkansas only beat them by four in the first round in 2022. Burlington isn’t exactly far from Syracuse so it’s compatible travel-wise (for Vermont of course), and it’s a solid opponent.
Why not reignite another old-school Big East rivalry? Ed Cooley may have bolted for Georgetown, but the Friars appear stoked for another solid season, this time under Kim English. Bryce Hopkins and Devin Carter were their two most important players last season, and both have committed to return despite the coaching change. SU has not met Providence since leaving the Big East. Why wouldn’t the Orange want to face a team they hold a 48-10 series edge over? The Friars have established themselves as one of the Big East’s best over the past few years, it would make a great test.
Again, the key is not a gauntlet but also not a cakewalk. A combination of these five opponents would give Syracuse a chance to gel as a team and pick up some solid wins heading into ACC play.