Fresh off a 27-26 2OT escape act against FCS opponent Villanova, the Syracuse Houdinis, I mean, Orange, head into one of two bye weeks on its schedule. Syracuse’s offensive struggles against the Wildcats were mind-numbingly perplexing given the amount of returning starters. Significantly jaw-dropping was Terrel Hunt punching a Villanova playing followed by his subsequent – and much deserved – ejection. Yes, it was the first game of the year so no need to hit the panic button, but, the entire production was alarming to say the least. Hunt and the Orange need to put that behind them quickly as they are at a point in the schedule where they must make hay or else kiss any bowl chances goodbye.
With that in mind, and no desire to beat a dead horse, the start of football season coincided with the release of the men’s basketball schedule. The start of basketball practice is roughly six weeks away. Last season’s 25-0 start, number one ranking and shocking Round of 32 exit (in Buffalo of all places) to Dayton is a distant memory.
The first order of business is replacing the production and leadership of Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, and Baye Moussa Keita. There will be plenty of minutes – and shots – for the returning players and incoming freshman. Another challenging schedule awaits Jim Boeheim and the Orange. Here are some of the highlights.
As one of four host schools, Syracuse plays the California Golden Bears in the 2K Sports Classic semifinals at Madison Square Garden on November 20. The Orange and Cal clashed last season in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational, a 92-81 Syracuse victory. Syracuse will play either the Texas Longhorns or the Iowa Hawkeyes the next night.
Of course, since both games are in Madison Square Garden, expect the usual talking heads to launch the all too common “home court” barbs. With any luck, we’ll be subjected to the “Syracuse never leaves New York State in the out-of-conference schedule” battle cry too. I know, I know. The real importance of these games is in providing so many young, untested players a big stage against decent AQ schools. In its second year of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Syracuse travels to Michigan for a clash with the Wolverines.
The Orange won its maiden voyage in the Challenge last year by defeating Indiana at home. The crowd at Crisler Arena won’t be as welcoming as the Orange faithful. Like the 2K Sports Classic opponents, this game will provide the young Orange a stern road test early in the season. Four days after traveling to Ann Arbor, Syracuse is back in the Dome tangling with long-time rival and former Big East foe St. John’s.
These two squads played last season at Madison Square Garden. The Orange pulled away towards the end for a 68-63 victory. Two weeks after the St. John’s clash, Syracuse travels to the City of Brotherly Love for another rematch with yet another former Big East rival.
The Villanova Wildcats will be itching to avenge last year’s defeat in the Dome. No doubt blowing an 18-point first-half lead will be on their minds. There won’t be any lack of tough opponents for the first half of SU’s regular season schedule.
Check back tomorrow when Steve Auger goes through the highlights of the ACC schedule.