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 second half of the regular season? Let’s examine the schedule to find out. (Be sure to check out Part I of our 2018-19 predictions for the first half of the season!)
@Duke: If Syracuse is indeed undefeated by this point in the season, this game against the Blue Devils could easily be a top-5 matchup. Duke’s freshman class headlined by J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish is projected to be one of the best recruiting classes of all time. Cameron Indoor is always a difficult place to play, and the Blue Devils will win this one, handing the Orange its first loss. Prediction: Loss. Record: 16-1
Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh under new head coach Jeff Capel will probably be better than the team that lost its last 19 straight games and didn’t win a single game in the ACC. But not that much better. Prediction: Win. Record: 17-1
Miami: The Hurricanes are one of many ACC teams that will hover inside the top 25 all season. The Orange beat Miami last season, but the only significant departure from that team was Ja’Quan Newton. This will be a tough game for Syracuse, but the Orange will triumph at home. Prediction: Win. Record: 18-1
@Virginia Tech: Buzz Williams coached teams are always a challenge, particularly at home. By this point in the season, Syracuse is likely to be ranked well above the Hokies but SU may be due for a let down on the road. Prediction: Loss. Record: 18-2
@Boston College: BC managed to knock off Syracuse at Conte Forum in the second-to-last game of the regular season, which looked like it might end the Orange’s Tournament chances. This year’s Eagles will be even better, as they return all their major players including Ky Bowman. Nonetheless, after a surprising upset against Virginia Tech, SU will bounce back and take down BC on the road. Prediction: Win. Record: 19-2
@Pittsburgh: As noted above, Pitt will be better, but not that much better. Although the last leg of a three-game road trip will be difficult for the Orange, SU will sweep the season series against the Panthers. Prediction: Win. Record: 20-2
Florida St.: It took two overtimes for the Seminoles to defeat Syracuse last season. Florida St. returns two of their top scorers and rebounders in Phil Cofer and Terance Mann. By the time of this matchup, both teams will likely be ranked in the top 15. The Dome will be rocking, and Syracuse will pull out an important victory. Prediction: Win. Record: 21-2
Boston College: Syracuse will beat the Eagles for the second time in less than two weeks, this time at the Dome. Prediction: Win. Record: 22-2
@North Carolina St.: The Wolfpack beat Syracuse last season at the Dome on their way to the NCAA Tournament. But NC State loses several key players from that team, including Allerik Freeman and Omar Yurtseven. Although the Wolfpack will be a top-50 team, they will be no trouble for SU this time. Prediction: Win. Record: 23-2
Louisville: The Cardinals continue to be in a state of transition after one-year interim coach David Padgett was replaced by Chris Mack. Louisville will be integrating multiple graduate transfers into a lineup where the only returning starter is V.J. King. The Orange will cruise at home. Prediction: Win. Record: 24-2
Duke: This game will be a top-5 rematch and a capacity crowd at the Dome will give the Duke freshman difficulties. Syracuse knocks off Duke and starts getting consideration as a potential No. 1 team in the country. Prediction: Win. Record: 25-2
@North Carolina: The excitement after a win against the Blue Devils will be short lived. The Tar Heels may have lost Joel Berry and Theo Pinson, but they have reloaded as a top-10 team. Playing on the road, SU will suffer a letdown after Duke. Prediction: Loss. Record: 25-3
@Wake Forest: The Orange will bounce back with an easy win on the road against the Demon Deacons. SU played Danny Manning’s team three times last season and won the last two, including in the ACC Tournament. With Bryant Crawford having left to play professionally, this Wake team will be worse than last year’s. Prediction: Win. Record: 26-3
Virginia: Tony Bennett’s teams have given SU fits outside of the notable exception of the 2016 Elite Eight. Virginia has defeated the Orange all but one time in the regular season since SU joined the ACC. The Cavaliers will be a top-10 team once again and hand Syracuse its only home loss on the season. Prediction: Loss. Record: 26-4
@Clemson: Coming off a disappointing loss, Syracuse will go into a challenging environment in Littlejohn Coliseum against another top-15 team. SU will suffer its second straight loss for the first time all season, and some fans will panic. Everything will be fine, but you know how some fans go. Syracuse will get a top 3 seed in the ACC Tournament and get ready for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Prediction: Loss. Record: 26-5
Regular season record: 26-5.
Be sure to check out Part I of our game-by-game predictions.