Orange Watch: How will elongated pre-NCAA Tournament layoff affect Syracuse

Syracuse lacrosse goalie Drake Porter
Syracuse lacrosse goalie Drake Porter defends. Mandatory Photo Credit: The Juice Online, Initra Marilyn.

Item: It’s unprecedented. Never before in its prior NCAA Tournament appearances has a Syracuse lacrosse team had this long a wait – 17 days – between its final regular season game/conference tournament game, and its first NCAA game in a particular season dating back to 1979’s first NCAA appearance.

One item is clear about the 2019 Div. I men’s lacrosse season, it’s a pretty open road to the championship, with even one-loss and No. 1 Penn State showing some vulnerabilities as many teams head into conference championship play this week.

That includes the ACC which stages its title game for the first time on the remaining highest seed’s home field Saturday afternoon, in this case Virginia hosting Notre Dame. Those two teams along with current No. 10 ranked Syracuse (9-4) and Duke will be the ACC at-large selections, competing among the nine automatic qualifying conferences for the precious four remaining spots in the field.

It’s also another reason why the ACC should again try and find a sixth program that can field a men’s team and still be compliant with Title IX requirements, in order to not only receive an automatic NCAA bid, but have just the top four teams play in the conference tournament. It remains to be seen how this year’s inclusion of all five teams will benefit or hinder teams like the Orange and Blue Devils who are in uncharted territory with this length of a gap between post-season games.

» Related: Syracuse lacrosse’s late three-goal lead evaporates in loss to North Carolina

As for SU’s preparation time, the loss to North Carolina along with whatever else happens in the conference tournaments this week could mean the Orange is bounced from a top eight seed and a home game, forced to hit the road for the first-round for the first time since 2012 when the televised selection show reveals the bracket on Sunday evening (9:00 p.m. ET / ESPNU).

The ‘Cuse players and coaches can also only take educated guesses based on different scenarios as to who its next opponent will be May 11 or 12. They can watch plenty of games being contested this week along with the season’s game tapes to learn from past mistakes, but there’s only so much that can be done on the practice field facing the same players for such an extended time line as the calendar turns to May.

If the first round game is indeed on the road, it will also mark the beginning of a trend heading into next season. With this year’s top-heavy slate of seven straight home games to open play, SU will have had just one home Dome game (Cornell) since April 9.

Next year, there are four available weeks in February 2020 to align with the basketball team before the March 1 hard deadline for closing the Dome down more than six months for the new roof installation. After that date home games will likely be back at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

For this Syracuse team it doesn’t matter as much as where its next game will be played, but how prepared they will be after such a long layoff.

NCAA Prediction (before conference tournament games week of April 29): Syracuse will be the No. 10 seed and open up at No. 7 Loyola on May 11.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.