I am going to break one of the age old adages in sports. I am going to look ahead in the schedule. There is a good reason for it though, I promise, because it has to do with Syracuse building its resume for March.
It might only be November, but in college basketball, it is never too early to start thinking about March. Come the end of the year, there is always talk about a team’s resume. For Syracuse, the chance to buff up that resume is right now.
It starts Wednesday against Oklahoma State, but matchups with Iowa and Georgetown represent this teams’s best chances to make a statement before the start of conference play.
These games would be highlighted on the schedule regardless. Each brings something unique to the table. The Cowboys will play the Orange at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Facing the Hawkeyes comes as a part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. And of course, we all know what the Hoyas represent to the Orange. Even if it is no longer a conference game, beating Georgetown is always high on the to-do list.
Looking closer at these three contests, they represent Syracuse’s best chance to make a real case to the selection committee down the line for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Simply stated, they are potential resume-builders. Conference play will undoubtedly be important once that gets into full swing.
However, picking up non-conference wins could be the difference as to which side of the bubble SU finds itself on in March. We all know that’s where this team likes to live nowadays.
In a season where Jim Boeheim’s squad does not feature in any early-season tournaments, this is it for the Orange to add quality wins outside the ACC. No offense, but beating up on Seattle, Bucknell, Cornell, Colgate, Niagara, Oakland and North Florida will not impress much.
So the reason I’m looking ahead is because it underlines the importance of this next stretch of games to Syracuse’s season as a whole. It means the Orange has to focus on taking it one game at a time.
Peaking ahead at conference play could spell disaster come the end of the season. This team could find a way to make up for a potential lull, but what feels more likely? Syracuse winning three games against middling non-conference teams, or making a ton of noise in a loaded ACC?
If Syracuse can find a way to beat all three teams, it takes a lot of pressure off this squad for the rest of the year. That is a tall task, but far from out of the question.
The Cowboys figure to be a middle of the road Big 12 team this year. Oklahoma State struggled against Oral Roberts and Western Michigan this season, but sit at 5-0. Handing them their first loss of the year would be a good look for the Orange.
Iowa already has a loss on its ledger. It came in the form of a decisive defeat by DePaul. The Blue Demons are certainly much more competitive this season than most Orange fans will remember from Syracuse’s Big East days, but the Hawkeyes are clearly a beatable outfit.
As for Georgetown, it has already lost two games this year, but the Hoyas have challenged themselves with the quality of their opponents.
The season-opening loss Penn State doesn’t look good on paper. However, losing to Duke is totally acceptable. Georgetown also owns a win over Texas. While Georgetown might still not be an NCAA Tournament team, beating them would be good for the overall resume.
As a collection, this trio doesn’t scream top-tier competition. There is a good chance that only one or even none of these teams are dancing come March.
But it is easily the most crucial part of Syracuse’s non-conference schedule, and not one it can afford to stumble through. We have seen how taxing ACC play is every year on this squad.
The Orange have never finished better than 10-8 since entering the conference. If SU manages to match that conference record this year, winning these three games would just about make it a lock for the tournament.