The Syracuse basketball schedule has come upon some undue criticism in recent years. Playing in the Big East, the Orange is guaranteed to play one of the more difficult schedules. But as the Orange had taken a we'll play anybody -as long as its in our building attitude, the national media's criticism of the Orange's schedule strengthened as Syracuse didn't play away non-conference games. All of this despite the fact that Syracuse has consistently played one of the more difficult schedules according to the RPI.
Expect this year to be no exception when the numbers get tallied. But the criticism from the media talking heads should become more difficult to justify as the Orange has again strengthened its non-conference schedule.
Some of that perception might be what has kept the Orange out of the tournament the last two seasons. Or it might be home losses to Drexel, UMASS, Bucknell and the like that have made it difficult for the selection committee to reward the Orange with a bid. But if Syracuse wants to get back to the tournament this year, it must do a better job to limit those poor losses and then if it wins 5 of these 10 games it should find itself among those dancing at seasons end.
1. November 24th versus Florida at Kansas City. A neutral site game at the site of the College Basketball Hall of Fame induction where Jim Phelan goes into the Hall the night before. This will give the Orange an early look at how good they might be as they face a Florida team that has won 2 of the last 3 national championships, but of course didn't make the tourney last year.
2. November 25th versus Kansas or Washington. If the Orange gets to play Kansas, it will be against a partisan crowd. Its a great game for the Orange. Because its one that many folks won't hold against them if they lose to the defending national champs, but would be a huge boost at selection time with a win.
3. November 28th versus Virginia - If the Big East is going to get 8 or more teams in the tournament this year (and the Orange could be one of those extra teams) this is the type of game it can't afford to lose. This is a mediocre ACC team, so the Big East squad needs to show the conference's dominance in a situation like this.
4. December 20th at Memphis - The Orange should have double digit wins by the time its gets to Beale. This is another matchup that the media and the selection committee has to give the Orange credit for. Plus its early enough in the season where the Tigers might not be as good as they are going to get.
5. January 14th at Georgetown - Syracuse nearly beat Georgetown both times last year, in this rivalry. Really they should have. This first real big conference game comes on the road and gives the Orange a chance to indicate that they are a force to be reckoned with.
6. January 19th at Pittsburgh - I've always had a theory with Jim Boeheim coached Orange teams, that they don't win on the road between the 15th of January and the 15th of February, that the long haul of the season and the familiarity of the conference teams and the zone seem to bury them. This game obviously is one that could be pivotal for the Orange. Pitt got a huge come from behind win last season and the Orange will look to finish this one if possible.
7. January 25th vs Louisville - History says these are the types of games that Syracuse plays its best in. Who knows? Maybe this becomes a great Dome turnout and the game of the season for the Orange. It certainly has that possibility.
8. February 7th at Villanova - This is a team that the Orange (if its fighting for a berth) might be fighting with. Consequently, any advantage it can get over them would help. Certainly a win in Philly would qualify as an advantage.
9. February 11th at UCONN - The Orange hasn't had a lot of success of late in Connecticut whether its at Gampel or Hartford. This could be the last chance at a signature win on the road, a mark on the resume that the Orange may desperately need at this point of the season depending on previous results.
10. February 14th at Georgetown - There are still five games after this Valentine's game with the Hoyas. But the Orange may have no better chance in those five than it will in this one to prove it belongs in the Big Dance. Plus its the Hoyas and its the Carrier Dome. It will be a big game.