For the past three seasons, I have predicted how many games the Syracuse men’s basketball team would win using a regression model that takes into account the talent lost from the previous season, the talent of the incoming freshmen, and the value of any incoming transfers.
But this year, the model broke. By adding two graduate transfers who averaged double digit scoring and a 7’2’’ center who has already practiced with the team for a year, Jim Boeheim has broken the mold of how to reload after making the Final Four. A model based on the past won’t help us in this new paradigm, so we need a new approach.
Instead, I will use the tried-and-true method of evaluating each matchup to predict the winner. The schedule is out, so let’s get to it. Today’s predictions will cover SU’s non-conference schedule. Make sure to check out Part II of predictions on all ACC games.
W – vs. Colgate – The Orange has beaten Colgate 49 straight times and isn’t about to stop now.
W – vs. Holy Cross – Holy Cross returns four key seniors, but that won’t be enough for a team that went 15-20 last season.
W – vs. Monmouth – Monmouth went 28-8 last year and gained a reputation for beating major conference teams on the road. The Hawks were near the top of every list of “Biggest Snubs” by the NCAA Tournament selection committee after they were left out of the 68-team field. It will be one of Syracuse’s most difficult games in the non-conference schedule this coming season, as the Hawks return all but one key player. However, there will be no snub revenge in the Carrier Dome this season.
W – vs. South Carolina State – South Carolina State only loses one significant senior, but they ranked 267 in the KenPom last year. This win should be no problem.
W – vs. South Carolina (Barclays) – The Gamecocks won their first 15 games last season and finished 25-9, making the NIT. This won’t be an easy game, but it will be like a home game in Brooklyn for the Orange.
W – at Wisconsin – The Badgers beat Syracuse in a game last season that the Orange had in hand and let slip away in the final seconds. This season, Wisconsin is projected by many to be a top-10 team. This will not only be Syracuse’s first road game but also its first test. The Orange will rise to the occasion and exact revenge for last season. This win will vault the Orange into the top 10.
W – vs. North Florida – The Ospreys – yes, that’s what they’re called – had a 20-win season last year. But none of those wins game against top-100 opponents. The Orange will reach Taco Time in this one.
W – vs. Connecticut (MSG) – The last two seasons Syracuse has gone 1-4 against old Big East rivals who didn’t join the ACC. The one win: UConn in the Bahamas last year. The Huskies return Rodney Purvis and Amida Brimah to a squad that is projected to be top-15. Of note, former Syracuse recruit Alterique Gilbert will man the point as a freshman. With the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, this game will feel like an old Big East Tournament game. Whether it takes 5 overtimes or regulation, the Orange will come out on top.
W – vs. Boston University – BU is like Boston College but worse at basketball.
W – vs. Georgetown – Remember that 1-4 record against old Big East foes that I mentioned? One of those loses was Georgetown last season. The Hoyas were a young team, however, and it showed down the stretch. Georgetown lost nine of its last 10 regular season games and didn’t make the post season. The Orange will win for the 50th time over the Hoyas, moving to a 50-42 all-time advantage.
W – vs. Eastern Michigan – Syracuse will have a friendly reunion with old assistant coach Rob Murphy, but DeShonte Riley isn’t walking through that door.
W – vs. St. John’s – The loss to St. John’s was one of the most painful moments of last season (and Mike Hopkins’ stint as the interim head coach). The Red Storm made 12-24 3-pointers, many which seemed to be launched from somewhere near half court. Even more inconceivable, the Johnnies only won one game the entire rest of the season. That’s right: they lost 21 of 22 games including defeats by Incarnate Ward and NJIT. Syracuse will chalk another win up on the revenge tour.
W – vs. Cornell – Like Colgate, Cornell is another Upstate New York school that Syracuse plays every year and hasn’t lost to in a really long time. For Big Red, it was 1968 the last time they had bragging rights over the Orange. The last time they beat Syracuse at home was 1964. It’s about this time – or perhaps earlier – that commentators will complain that Syracuse hasn’t played enough games outside of New York. This season, they might be right, but the Orange will be undefeated and a top-5 team entering conference play.