Item: Wasn’t Syracuse’s 68-66 escape at Virginia Tech last Saturday sort of symbolic of the season so far? One half of great basketball showing flashes of how when the inside/outside game is clicking offensively, the defense is in full force, and going strong to the glass leaves a lot of smiles around Orange Nation, only to be followed by the opposition’s halftime adjustments resulting in almost completely blowing a 22 point lead and the game itself. That would not have been a great way to start the New Year, would it?
As ACC play continues Wednesday night in Atlanta against 9-4, 0-1 Georgia Tech (7:00 p.m. ET / ESPNU), we take different capsule looks at seven of the upcoming league opponents in schedule order. We will look at the remaining seven tomorrow in Part II:
Georgia Tech – The Jackets have been making strides, albeit baby steps in Brian Gregory’s fourth season, but one of those steps was beating the then-No. 7 Orange in the Dome 67-62 late last year. There was a lot to be encouraged from Tech’s double overtime defeat at No. 12/13 Notre Dame over the weekend, and the Orange will be the conference home opener in refurbished, three year old McCamish Pavilion, the cozy and loud 8,600 seat building replacing the longtime Alexander Coliseum on the same site. A tough test figures to await the 10-4, 1-0 Orange.
Florida State – In Tallahassee, they’re still mourning the end of the football team’s 29 game winning streak and hopes of rare back-to-back national titles, while in relative anonymity Leonard Hamilton’s basketball team has accomplished the rare “Florida Four Step,” beating Florida, North Florida, South Florida and Central Florida so far, and the ‘Noles get Miami twice later in the season.
Wake Forest – After the less than stellar four seasons under Jeff Bzdelik, new head coach Danny Manning has brought instant credibility and gotten improved play from the players he inherited, with a revved up announced home crowd of almost 11,000 going wild with the Demon Deacons fighting back to lead No. 5 Louisville Sunday night with 5:00 to play in an eventual 85-76 defeat.
Clemson – Yes, the ‘Cuse beat Clemson by 13 in its second game as No. 1 in the country last season in the Dome, but when SU plays its first ACC game, and second overall, at 47 year old Littlejohn Coliseum they will be seeking revenge for the last time they played there, a 74-70 NIT quarterfinal round defeat in 2007. The 22-10 Orange, a surprise NCAA snub that season, were relegated as a regional No. 2 seed behind Clemson in a late NIT bracket flurry, forcing SU to hit the road for the quarterfinals in front of an announced 10,000, this after the Orange played in front of a sympathetic NIT record Dome crowd of 26,752 in a win over San Diego State in the previous round.
Boston College – Boy, didn’t the Steve Donahue era come and go pretty quickly in Chestnut Hill? It seems like yesterday that Donahue, now doing some TV color commentary, was the king of Central New York leading Cinderella Cornell into the Sweet 16 at the Dome against mighty No. 1 seed Kentucky. But that was five years ago and since then Donahue suffered through a 54-76 mark in four seasons at B.C. highlighted by knocking the Orange from its 25-0 crown last Feb., and AD Brad Bates wanted to go in another direction bringing in Jim Christian from Ohio University. The Eagles most impressive win to date is a neutral court victory over New Mexico in November.
Miami – If there is one game on the schedule that Jim Boeheim has thoroughly enjoyed more than others in his 39 years is when the team has a road conference date in a warm weather locale, usually Florida, a chance sometimes to even grab an extra day away from being immersed in the middle of another cold Syracuse winter. It was Miami in the early 90s Big East days, then Tampa when South Florida came into the league. Now it’s back to Coral Gables every other season, but alas, not this year, the fun in the sun will have to wait until next Thanksgiving in the 2015 “Battle 4 Atlantis” in the Bahamas, with the ‘Cuse joined by the likes of Connecticut, Michigan, Texas and Gonzaga.
North Carolina – This Big Monday tipoff will be SU’s first game at the Dean E. Smith Center since a 1988 NCAA upset loss to Rhode Island, sending the defending national runners-up home earlier than expected, and the first time they’ve played UNC on the road in Chapel Hill, the previous game in 1983 was in Charlotte. This time around the Orange will face a Tar Heels team that couldn’t hold home court in its first Big Monday game this week falling late to Notre Dame.