One week from tonight, the Syracuse Orange begins its annual trek on the road to March Madness. It does so in only its third campaign as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
And while Jim Boeheim might still be scoping out the location of any and all Denny’s in the Clemson area, it’s not like Syracuse is a new arrival on the college hoops landscape. Yet for some reason, the kind ACC folks who determine the league schedule seem to be treating the Orange as such.
In Syracuse’s first season in the ACC, it closed the year with four of five on the road; at Duke (the JB jacket game), at Maryland (48 hours later), at Virginia, a home finale versus Georgia Tech followed by another road game at Florida State. After storming out of the gate with 25 straight wins, Syracuse sputtered down the stretch with a 2-3 mark in those five games.
Last year the Orange played three of its final four on the road; at Notre Dame, at Duke, versus Virginia and at NC State. The Orange beat the Irish but was then blown out by Duke, didn’t even break 50 points in a loss to the Cavs and was run off the court by NC State in game that wasn’t as close at the final 14-point margin. The three games prior to that stretch were all home games over an eight day span; Duke, Louisville and Pitt. Syracuse went 1-2 with the lone win coming against Louisville.
This year finds the Orange packing its bags for four of the final six; at Boston College and Louisville, home against Pitt and NC State, and then back on the road against UNC and Florida State.
No one’s saying that SU is entitled to coasting across the finish line with three straight home games against the dregs of the league. And every team at some point closes the year with an unfavorable schedule. The Tar Heels last four games this year consist of trips to NC State, Virginia, back home versus the Orange, and then the eight mile bus ride to Cameron for its annual last game rock fight with Duke. Ugh.
You play the schedule put in front of you every coach will say. And if you want to be successful, you have to beat the best at some point no matter where and when the game is played. Duke and Carolina both have long histories of doing that in this league. Maybe I’m a conspiracy theory guy. No check that; I am a conspiracy theory guy. But three grinding road trips to end its first three seasons in the league smells a little bit of “know your role, newbie.”
I mean come on, are the higher-ups at the ACC HQ still hacked off over JB’s Denny’s comment? Let it go, guys. And treat yourself to a Grand Slam breakfast in the meantime.