This is not going to be easy.
The Battle for Atlantis field is stacked, featuring defending national champion #9 Baylor, #22 Auburn, #24 Connecticut, Arizona State, Michigan State, and Loyola Chicago, as well as Syracuse’s opening opponent of VCU. Of that field, only Arizona State did not receive votes in the opening polls and Baylor looms as a potential second-round opponent for the Orange.
That tournament is the opening half of a six-game stretch that will more than test the mettle of SU before the season is a month old. The back half of that meatgrinder starts with Indiana, who received votes in the opening polls. Next is the ACC opener at Florida State, then a trip to Madison Square Garden to face former Big East rival Villanova. Those contests provide a pair of matchups with nationally-ranked teams with the Wildcats poised for a big season at #4 in the preseason polls. And if that span is not emotionally draining enough, the Orange travel to play Georgetown right after it wraps.
Outside that heavyweight stretch, the rest of the non-conference schedule is light and understandably so. Lafayette, Colgate, and Lehigh all represent the Patriot League, Cornell comes from the Ivy, and Drexel out of the CAA. Colgate ranks the highest in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings prior to the season, standing at 121st in the nation, and Drexel, at #179, is the only one of the others not ranked #275 in the nation or lower. Opening the season with three of these tune-ups with several days between games will give Jim Boeheim opportunities to tinker and experiment in an effort to get the team humming before the Atlantis tournament.
The 20-game conference schedule is one of extremes for the Orange. They face the predicted top two teams and bottom four teams in home-and-home sets. The other four teams named to finish higher than them are an equal home-road split, setting up what appears to be a fairly even schedule for SU.
The ACC appears to be a little bit down compared to normal expectations with just one team in the preseason top ten, but four teams in the preseason top 25. Duke (#9), North Carolina (#19), Florida State (#20), and Virginia (#25) claimed those honors.
Unlike most previous seasons, the Orange will have a little lighter overall schedule late in the campaign. While Duke and North Carolina are slated just one day apart in late February, SU gets their off date in the middle of that month with a slightly easier finishing kick aside from the Tobacco Road duo, including four days off before their home finale.
The one big thing Syracuse controls about their schedule is the preseason tournament they choose to enter. And here is the important thing about Jim Boeheim getting the Orange into a tourney with a stacked field: it means he thinks the squad is pretty good. You can tell by looking at where the team has gone in November and what they did at that season.
The last time SU went to the Bahamas in November 2015, they beat a pair of ranked teams in Connecticut and Texas A&M, then ended the season battle-tested and made a surprise run to the 2016 Final Four. Two years previous, the squad won the Maui Invitational, beating Minnesota, California, and #18 Baylor along the way. They started the season 25-0 before… well, let’s not talk about that.
In 2018-19, the team went to the 2K Classic and lost both games (Connecticut and Oregon), then eked into the NCAA Tournament and got bounced in the first round. The following season, Oklahoma State and Penn State both had their way with the Orange in the NIT Season Tip-Off. The sudden end of the season caused by the pandemic likely saved the program from not being chosen to dance on Selection Sunday.
So, this Thanksgiving’s trip hints at the head coach’s opinion regarding how good he thinks his charges can be.
» Related: ESPN analyst Tim Welsh says Syracuse is ‘at least’ a Sweet 16 team
|11/9/2021||Lafayette||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||7:00 P.M.|
|11/14/2021||Drexel||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||5:00 P.M.|
|11/20/2021||Colgate||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||TBA|
|11/24/2021||VCU||Imperial Arena, Paradise Island, Bahamas||5:00 P.M.|
|11/25/2021||TBD||Imperial Arena, Paradise Island, Bahamas|
|11/26/2021||TBD||Imperial Arena, Paradise Island, Bahamas|
|11/30/2021||Indiana||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||7/7:30 PM|
|12/4/2021||*||at Florida State||Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, Tallahassee, FL||4:00 P.M.|
|12/7/2021||Villanova||Madison Square Garden, New York, NY||9:30 P.M.|
|12/11/2021||at Georgetown||Capital One Arena, Washington, DC||12:00 P.M.|
|12/18/2021||Lehigh||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||6:00 P.M.|
|12/21/2021||Cornell||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||9:00 P.M.|
|12/29/2021||*||Georgia Tech||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||7:00 P.M.|
|1/1/2022||*||Virginia||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||8:00 P.M.|
|1/5/2022||*||at Miami||Watsco Center, Coral Gables, FL||8:00 P.M.|
|1/8/2022||*||at Wake Forest||LJVM Coliseum, Winston-Salem, NC||2:00 P.M.|
|1/11/2022||*||Pitt||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||7:00 P.M.|
|1/15/2022||*||Florida State||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||4:00 P.M.|
|1/18/2022||*||Clemson||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||9:00 P.M.|
|1/22/2022||*||at Duke||Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC||12:00 P.M.|
|1/25/2022||*||at Pitt||Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA||8:00 P.M.|
|1/29/2022||*||Wake Forest||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||8:00 P.M.|
|2/2/2022||*||at North Carolina State||PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC||9:00 P.M.|
|2/5/2022||*||Louisville||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||2:00 P.M.|
|2/8/2022||*||at Boston College||Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, MA||8:00 P.M.|
|2/12/2022||*||at Virginia Tech||Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, VA||6:00 P.M.|
|2/19/2022||*||Boston College||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||12:00 P.M.|
|2/22/2022||*||at Notre Dame||Purcell Pavilion Notre Dame, IN||9:00 P.M.|
|2/26/2022||*||Duke||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||6:00 P.M.|
|2/28/2022||*||at North Carolina||Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC||7:00 P.M.|
|3/5/2022||*||Miami||The Dome, Syracuse, NY||TBA|
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