Orange doesn’t travel far, neither does anyone else

Maybe ESPN should use Dick Vitale’s “bald dome” to draw a map of the state of New York. For all of the traveling its analysts do, most don’t seem to comprehend the distance between Syracuse and New York City.

On a good day you can make it by car just shy of five hours – 250 miles separate the Carrier Dome and Madison Square Garden.

That’s double what Florida traveled up I-75 to make it to the St. Pete Times Forum for the Big East/SEC Invitational last year. And five times the mileage Kansas faced when the team bused it to the Sprint Center in Kansas City during the 2008-09 season to host the Orange.

Jim Boeheim and his team have become the punching bag for not playing on the road during the non-conference slate.  Vitale even asked Santa to give the coach some frequent flier miles for the holidays so his team can take some trips outside of the New York-New Jersey area next year.

Pundits seem to think Madison Square Garden is located at the corner of Marshall Street and University Avenue. Vitale’s latest argument redefines state lines.

Apparently, I missed the press conference in 2010 in which Gov. David Paterson announced the annexation of New Jersey. Why don’t we just label the whole Northeast and any arena in it as Syracuse’s home court?

Vitale is, of course, referring to when the Orange headed down to Atlantic City to play Michigan and Georgia Tech in the Legends Classic this past November.  For those keeping tally, Atlantic City is a solid 5.5-hour drive (316 miles) from Syracuse.

And no, Vitale is not alone. According to the logic of FOX Sports’ Jeff Goodman, you can somehow get to Boardwalk Hall by going through a secret door in Manley Field House.

Some analysts say not playing on the road in your non-conference schedule doesn’t prepare you, doesn’t test you enough for the road you’ll face during conference play.  But didn’t the same Syracuse squad that played no true non-conference road games go 8-1 on the road in the Big East last year?

The reality is Syracuse will play nine conference opponents away from the cozy confines of the Carrier Dome this season, five of them currently ranked in the top 25: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Villanova and Georgetown.  So why does it need to load its non-conference schedule with tough “true” road games?

And why has Syracuse become the poster child? The Orange can’t be the only team with this non-conference dilemma.

Guess what? It’s not. Here’s a stat for all of those analysts to digest: the top-10 teams in the country have played a total of 17 “true” road games to date in their non-conference schedules.  Ten of the 17 came courtesy of San Diego State, Kentucky and Villanova.

What’s that you say? Duke doesn’t leave Cameron Indoor? That’s (not so) awesome BABY!

Pittsburgh doesn’t leave the Peterson Event Center? Well, to be fair let’s take a look shall we? And remember we’re using the same logic the Dick Vitales and Jeff Goodmans of the world use when breaking down Syracuse’s non-conference schedule.

Rule No. 1: Neutral courts don’t count. Those games have been omitted.

Rule No. 2: If you play a road game within your own state or a neighboring state those don’t count either.

Rule No. 3: Big alumni bases in opponent’s city can be used as reasoning for disqualification.

Ranking Team Non-Conference Road Games
1 Duke at UNC Greensboro (57 miles away and in the state of North Carolina), at St. John’s (But Duke has a big alumni base in NYC, right? You don’t believe me? They have a whole website dedicated to it!)*
2 Ohio State at No. 10 Florida, at Florida State
3 Kansas at Cal, at Michigan
4 Syracuse
5 Pittsburgh
6 SDSU at LBSU, at No. 12 Gonzaga, at Miami (OH), at Cal (Hold on, LBSU and Cal are located in the state of California)
7 Villanova at Penn, at LaSalle, at Monmouth (Penn and LaSalle are inside the state of Pennsylvania, so kindly ignore them; and Monmouth is in neighboring New Jersey, so that one doesn’t count either)
8 Connecticut at No. 12 Texas
9 Missouri at Oregon
10 Kentucky at Portland, at UNC, at No. 20 Louisville (The Cardinals and the Wildcats share a state, sorry!)

*This game will be played on Jan. 30.

One thing is clear: pre-season tournaments aside, very few teams travel far from home, if at all, during November and December.  And when your conference stretches as far west as Wisconsin and as far south as Florida, and when you’re one team shy of half your conference ranked in the top 25, I don’t think you need to answer to anybody.

Micah Tannenbaum is a Senior Columnist for The Juice Online.