The Syracuse men’s basketball team will kick off its season Tuesday night. With all players returning from last year’s Sweet Sixteen run, the Orange shouldn’t be worried about the NCAA Tournament bubble for the first time since 2014.
How will the Orange fair during the regular season? Let’s examine the schedule to find out.
Eastern Washington: The Eagles came within one win of making the NCAA Tournament last year, but they graduated star Bogdan Bliznyuk. Opening night should be no problem for the Orange. Prediction: Win. Record: 1-0
Morehead St.: Like Eastern Washington, Morehead St. is also the Eagles. Unlike Eastern Washington, these Eagles only won eight games last season. Prediction: Win. Record: 2-0
Connecticut (neutral): UConn will provide the first real test for the Orange. Likewise, Syracuse will provide the first test for the Huskies new head coach, Dan Hurley, who takes over after leading Rhode Island to back-to-back NCAA appearances. UConn returns star Jalen Adams and should be better than their 14-18 record last season, during which they lost to Syracuse by 9. However, the Orange will be ready and take home the neutral court victory. Prediction: Win. Record: 3-0
Oregon (neutral): You’re getting a two-for-one here. On top of my prediction of Oregon defeating Iowa in the other bracket of the 2K Classic, Syracuse’s zone is going to contain and frustrate 7-foot-2 freshman Bol Bol and the No. 19 Ducks. Oregon looked sloppy in an exhibition win over Western Oregon, committing 19 turnovers, including 11 in the first half. The zone should only complicate that. Prediction: Win. Record: 4-0
Colgate: It was 1962 the last time the Raiders beat SU, and that’s not going to change. Jim Boeheim will improve his record to 30-0 against this fellow upstate school. Prediction: Win. Record: 5-0
@Ohio St.: While UConn and Oregon will provide SU’s first true tests, the Buckeyes will provide both the Orange its first road game. Coach Chris Holtmann will be in his second season, but he loses top scorer Keita Bates-Diop. The Buckeyes will be trying to integrate a slew of new players including Keyshawn Woods, a graduate transfer who average 11.9 points per game for Wake Forest a season ago. Syracuse will respond to this test and pick up its first quality win of the season. Prediction: Win. Record: 6-0
Cornell: In the second annual Battle of the Boeheims, SU coach Jim Boeheim will now add his son Buddy Boeheim to the matchup against his other son Jimmy Boeheim. As much as the game might tug at Julie Boeheim’s emotions, the outcome is unlikely to be in doubt. SU will extend its winning streak over Big Read to 39 games. Prediction: Win. Record: 7-0
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Northeastern: This game against the Huskies will be one that the Orange can look back on as a quality mid-major win. Northeastern is projected to win the Colonial, and they return all but one key player from a team that won 23 games last year. Senior guard Vasa Pusica will be the one to watch, as he averaged 17.9 points per game and shot over 42 percent from 3 last season. The Orange will win once again, however. Prediction: Win. Record: 8-0
Georgetown: It took overtime for Syracuse to beat the rival Hoyas last season, and that Georgetown team finished a dismal 15-15, losing nine of its last 11 games. This year’s squad will be better, although it is still not projected to finish in the top half of the Big East. Former SU recruit Jessie Govan returns for his senior season after averaging 17.9 points and 10 rebounds per game last season. He will pose problems for SU down low, but SU’s depth and guards will overpower the Hoyas. Prediction: Win. Record: 9-0
Old Dominion: SU hasn’t played Old Dominion since 1981 and is 2-1 against the school all time. The Monarchs lose three starters from last year’s 25-win team but they will likely continue to be a top-100 team in 2019. The Orange will continue to roll. Prediction: Win. Record: 10-0
Buffalo: SU’s win against Buffalo last season was likely the difference in the Orange landing on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Bulls finished with 27 wins and defeated Arizona in the first round of the Tournament. Although Buffalo loses guard Wes Clark, it returns just about everyone else of note and will be in position to win the MAC once again. The Bulls will pose a challenge to SU, but Syracuse will pull it out once again. Prediction: Win. Record: 11-0
Arkansas St.: The Red Wolves will likely be the worst team Syracuse plays all year. This one is in the bag. Prediction: Win. Record: 12-0
St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies’ overtime defeat of the Orange last year at the Carrier Dome was the team’s signature win on the way to making the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the first time St. Bonaventure had beaten their upstate New York rivals since 1981. Although the Bonnies lose Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, they will continue to be a tough out in the Atlantic 10. Syracuse gets revenge, however. Prediction: Win. Record: 13-0
@Notre Dame: The Orange’s second road game of the season will happen in the ACC opener. Gone from Notre Dame are Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell. But Mike Brey’s Irish always seem to reload. This year is expected to be more of a struggle than years past, so SU will exact revenge for losses in each of the last two seasons. Prediction: Win. Record: 14-0
Clemson: SU’s second top-25 opponent is likely to be Clemson in the ACC home opener. The Tigers will be led by senior guards Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell. The experienced Tigers will be a challenge, but SU will beat them at the Dome just as they did last season. Prediction: Win. Record: 15-0
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets under Josh Pastner have been a pesky opponent for the Orange, defeating SU in two of the last three seasons. Ben Lammers, who has been a zone killer in his career against Syracuse, has finally graduated, so Syracuse will cruise to an easy victory. Prediction: Win. Record: 16-0
Be sure to check back for the second part of our game-by-game predictions.
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