When you took a glance at the schedule before the season began, chances are a lot of non-conference games caught your eye. Three games in Hawaii, the inaugural ACC-SEC Challenge against LSU, and the renewal of the Georgetown rivalry probably stood out more than others. But Sunday’s contest with Oregon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota shouldn’t be overlooked at all. This game could go a long way in determining how far SU will go this year.
It’s no secret the Orange have lacked in picking up big wins over the last few years, and you’d be hard-pressed to argue a win Sunday wouldn’t qualify as a big one. As of Tuesday, the Ducks sit as Joe Lunardi’s first team out in his Bracketology. Oregon also sits at number 51 in the NCAA’s net rankings. Barring any rankings change that will almost certainly happen, it would be a Quad 2 victory for Syracuse. SU has yet to play a Quad 2 game this season- it is 0-3 in Quad 1 and a combined 6-0 in Quads 3 and 4. For it to bump up to Quad 1, the Ducks would need to become top-50 in the rankings, which is not out of the realm of possibility. A win on Sunday would easily be the biggest of the season.
As mentioned above, the Orange are 0-3 in Quad 1 games this year. They have not looked great in them too. SU has lost games to Tennesee, Gonzaga, and Virginia, three teams currently in the top 25, by 58 combined points. Nearly 20 per game. Oregon is a good team, but it is not in the same class as the Volunteers, Bulldogs, and Cavaliers. No disrespect to LSU and Georgetown, but wins against those teams will probably not sway the NCAA Tournament Committee a whole lot. An Orange win at a neutral site against the Ducks might just do the trick.
Finally, if you want to prove you’re a force to be reckoned with in the ACC, beating a good high-major team like Oregon before conference play kicks in does just that. The analytics aren’t particularly kind to Syracuse at the moment. It’s 11th among ACC teams in NET Rankings and 12th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency metrics. That does not bode well for a team seeking to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. With the exception of last year’s win over a ranked NC State team, the Orange have mightily struggled to pick up signature wins, in both conference and non-conference play. If you want to be close to the same pedigree as the best of the best in the ACC, get a win on Sunday.
Any time you get a chance to take down a high major opponent before conference play, it’s a golden opportunity to make a good impression. SU could pick up a relatively early signature win, making itself an ACC force to be reckoned with in the process.