As expected, the 20-game ACC slate is going to make things a bit tougher.
Since the ACC announced an expanded 20-game schedule, we knew that it would likely impact the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team’s ability to add all of the teams it wanted to in non-conference play. We’ve talked about that from time to time here, and hypothesized about who makes the cut (and who doesn’t) when looking at Syracuse’s usual non-conference foes.
To little surprise, we’re far from the only ones paying some consideration to that upcoming challenge. Syracuse.com’s Mike Waters spoke to SU director of basketball operations Kip Wellman this week about the hurdles having two fewer non-conference games put in front of him when it comes to constructing the schedule.
First and foremost, you’re unlikely to get all of Buffalo, St. Bonaventure, Georgetown and St. John’s/UConn. Said Wellman:
“It depends on what you decide to do with home and home games. I think for games like Georgetown or St. John’s, we’re still trying to work through that and see if it fits. You probably can’t play all three of them or even two of them. If you do, you might not be able to keep some other teams.
“If you eliminate those, you get to keep the Bonaventures and Buffalos.’’
This sort of falls in line with what we figured. The new scheduling demands become a very careful balancing act of not making the opponents too tough or too easy. And as mentioned previously, a lesser field like this year’s Preseason NIT (Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Penn State) won’t help matters either, as it adds extra pressure to get yet another power conference team on the slate along with those two plus the ACC/Big Ten Challenge opponent.
Realistically, the schedule looks something like this when Wellman starts piecing things together:
- Bucknell (already locked in)
- ACC/Big Ten Challenge (1 game)
- Cornell and Colgate (2 games)
- Preseason NIT field (2 games)
- Two of St. Bonaventure/Buffalo/Georgetown/St. John’s/UConn
- Three likely home games in Quad 2/3 area
The big question becomes is that enough this year? Without a marquee team in the preseason NIT field, you’re banking on the B1G opponent carrying your non-conference strength of schedule along with maybe Georgetown or a probably rebuilding Buffalo. That’s not a dire situation, but it’s also likely not as good of a slate as we’ve had in recent years when non-conference strength of schedule (along with road wins) has been a key part of the Orange making the NCAAs in three of the last four seasons.
Boeheim’s always notably been pro-cupcake when it comes to early scheduling, and in the Waters piece, he seems to reiterate that general line of thinking by wondering if the two extra ACC games means they don’t have to play teams like Buffalo or Old Dominion (tougher mid-major foes, both of whom Syracuse lost to last year). Don’t know if Wellman necessarily agrees based on what he shared in the article. But they’re far from “opposed” on the matter.
Last year’s Preseason NIT featured two on-campus games, so along with Bucknell, SU is getting one more game they can’t really dictate. If that one’s in the Quad 2/3 territory, then that makes things easier for Wellman. If not, it increases the likelihood that the Orange maybe do have to add three from the Georgetown/Buffalo/Bonnies/St. John’s/UConn group.
As far as other Quad 2/3 teams we’d potentially want to see added, teams like Harvard, Bowling Green, Northern Kentucky and UNC-Greensboro are out there, as are Hofstra, Stony Brook and a bunch of other schools that are reasonably close in terms of geography if we want to face them.
Wellman’s shown himself a pro at getting these schedules done lately, so he’s certainly up to the task. But it’ll be interesting nonetheless to see where the Orange net out with regard to opponents this year, and how that may inform what we do in the future, too.
But what do you think? Which teams would you like to see on the schedule this year and going forward? Assuming there are a fair amount of pro-Georgetown opinions (scheduling-only) out there. But there’s a fair case against as well.