Orange Watch: Could it be a winless regular season on the road for Syracuse basketball?

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Could Syracuse really go winless on the road?

Item: Last Saturday’s 84-66 defeat at Notre Dame not only dropped the Orange to 11-9 overall the worst first 20 game mark of any season in the Jim Boeheim era, and to 3-4 in the ACC, but also an amazing 0-7 in games played away from the Carrier Dome this season. Based on the fact that the ‘Cuse has often looked dazed and confused on defense in the ACC portion of those road games falling by an average deficit of 16 points, and with the league as deep and talented as it is from top-to-bottom, unless something dramatically changes moving forward, there’s little indication that the Orange will be favored, or indeed can pull off a win at remaining road locales N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Louisville.

You have to go all the way back 94 years to find a Syracuse basketball season in which the team did not win a road and/or neutral court game. To keep eras in perspective, the 1922-23 SU squad under head coach Edmund Dollard only played a grand total of three games outside of Syracuse the entire season, and only a total of 20 regular season games – 11 fewer than this year’s team which will play 12 games total away from the Dome.

At this point of the schedule heading into tonight’s Dome game against 12-7, 3-4 Wake Forest, with the Demon Deacons coming off an impressive 93-88 win at N.C. State last Saturday – their first road ACC win in three years (8:00 p.m. ET / ACC Network), the Orange could be headed to the worst road record for any season in 54 years.

In 1962-63, with freshmen Dave Bing and Jim Boeheim not yet eligible to play under NCAA rules for head coach Fred Lewis, Syracuse went 1-7 away from the brand new Manley Field House in a 21 game regular season, only winning at Colgate in the final road game of the season.

» Related: Can Syracuse still make the NCAA Tournament?

“Our defense is not good, it hasn’t been good on the road,” Boeheim said following the latest road loss to the Irish at South Bend, and in a rarity for the head coach at any postgame press conference in his entire 41 year career, sporting the open shirt collar-no tie visible look, as he met the media for a quick five and half minutes.

“It’s been better at home obviously (3-0 in the ACC winning by an average of 14 points), but it’s been really bad on the road. If you can play defense at home, there’s no reason you can’t play on the road, the court’s the same. We’re not.”

When Syracuse goes back on the road in 11 days, and if during one or more of the final five road games SU straightens out its defensive alignments combined with a fluid offensive effort to achieve that elusive first road success of the season, here’s where we think that win will occur, the likelihood (scale being 5-most likely-to-1-least likely) based on how well the opponent’s been playing at home this season, and SU’s historical performances at that venue:

5- Clemson (0-3 at home as of Jan. 23), 4-N.C. State (2-2 at home), 3-Georgia Tech (2-2 at home), 2-Pittsburgh (1-2 at home), and 1-Louisville (3-1 at home).

Why has this season been the most road challenging in Boeheim’s long tenure?

“Some of its new players (as a reason for the road woes),” he’s often said this year with his usual complete candor.

“They have not adjusted to playing well on the road. (In turn) our veteran guys have not picked it up,” he specified prior to Tuesday’s return home to face Wake Forest. “That’s really probably the biggest issue. Our two seniors have not played the way they have to play for us to win.”

Even if the Orange does not end up winning a true league road game, there’s always the ACC Tournament for a shot at winning away from the Dome this season. At 0-2 all-time (SU didn’t compete in 2014) in the ACC Tourny the ‘Cuse is due for a win, and they’ll be back at the friendly New York City confines of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to boot.

For now, the schedule says home games tonight against Wake and Saturday against No. 6/8 Florida State (18-2, 6-1).

“We’ve played well at home,” Boeheim said. “We’ve got to go home and play well, (and) try to get some momentum going.”

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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