Item: In less than a week, the Syracuse basketball team begins pre-season practice, minus an injured Frank Howard early on, for a highly anticipated season. It also marks the beginning of the final stages of Jim Boeheim’s Hall of Fame career as he now coaches his sharp-shooting son Buddy Boeheim (donning jersey No. 35 to honor his Dad) for likely the next four seasons through the 2021-22 campaign.
The college basketball season keeps starting earlier and earlier with preseason practice for the Orange getting underway Sept. 25, the first exhibition game one month later on Oct. 25, and the season opener against Eastern Washington on the earliest opening date – Nov. 6.
We certainly acknowledge that the coaching staff and athletic department have the non-conference portion of the basketball schedule down pat to go along with 18, and soon to be 20 conference games with the launch of the linear ACC Network in less than a year.
Mixing in an early season tournament of some sort, an appearance at Madison Square Garden against a “name” program or two, the Big Ten challenge series, and other home games for financial reasons against a myriad of programs with various power rankings among the now 353 Div. I programs, SU annually puts itself in a position to have its won/loss record stacked up with strength of schedule to give itself a best shot at annual NCAA Tournament berths.
With the upcoming tougher road through the ACC and two less non-league games, the last thing Coach Boeheim would likely want to entertain over his last three seasons is adding a tough non-ACC matchup at the Dome, but that is exactly what we are proposing as a way to “honor” his unbelievable run as one of the best-ever coaches in college basketball.
Among the top 21 all-time most victorious Div. I programs, there are only seven teams that have not been the ‘Cuse opponent in a Dome game coached by Boeheim, topped by the obvious team we want to finally see play on campus – Kansas, second to Kentucky on the most wins list.
The other six are Brigham Young, Utah, Illinois, Texas, and Western Kentucky, obvious winning programs but lacking glamour names to Syracuse fans (despite the 2003 Final Four win over the Longhorns), and the other obvious choice for a Dome date – Washington and Mike Hopkins, number 21 on the all-time wins list.
So we’re proposing a home-and-home series in this order; BYU, Utah, or Texas in 2019, Kansas in 2020, and Washington and Mike Hopkins in 2021, with the return road games staggered to be absorbed by both Boeheim and his successor.
Coach Boeheim will have ended up coaching against virtually all of the top 21 all-time winning programs on the court that has featured his name since 2002, and the spotlight of a Boeheim-Hopkins coaching matchup (don’t forget he’s faced former assistants Rob Murphy and Louis Orr a combined 12 times) will be enormous in his final season, even with both hating the fact that one will defeat the other in a battle of on-court strategies.