The pre-conference schedule is done for Syracuse this year, with the Big East season starting Thursday night for the Orange. I’m sure a lot of Orange fans such as myself are glad it’s done; it has not been a start to a season that we’re accustomed to from Jim Boeheim’s squads.
I went back to determine how Boeheim’s teams have done in previous seasons in the “pre-conference” games; I’ve defined a pre-conference game as any non-conference game that occurs before the start of the Big East season plus any non-conference games that occurred in the first week of the Big East season; I excluded the first year of Big East play where there were only 6 Big East games for the Orangemen. Including this year, Syracuse is 260-27 over 27 seasons in pre-conference games. That’s a winning percentage of 90.6%.
Here’s the breakdown by year.
A few things to note. From the 1984-85 season to the 1993-94 season, Syracuse was an amazing 94-2 in the preseason games. I don’t care who you’re playing; that’s great. During that time frame they played in the Big East / ACC Challenge, along with some other tournaments, so not all the games were “creampuffs”. The only two losses during that time frame where to North Carolina and Arizona, both in the 1987 Great Alaska Shootout.
Even more amazing, from the 1988-89 season to 1993-94, the Orangemen didn’t lose a single pre-conference game, going 57-0. That includes memorable win over Indiana in 1988, Missouri in 1988, Duke in the 1989 ACC/Big East Challenge, Indiana & Iowa State in the 1990 Maui Classic, NC State in the 1990 ACC/Big East Challenge, Florida State in 1991, Tennessee in 1992 and 1993, and Arizona in 1994. So for those critics of Jim Boeheim, please review that list again.
In the 27 seasons of Big East play, Syracuse has only twice lost more than 2 games in the pre-conference schedule. In 1996-97, they went 8-4. That team would end up 19-13 overall, 9-9 in the Big East, and would lose in the first round of the NIT. Not one of the better Boeheim teams.
The other team is this year’s squad, at 11-3 as previously mentioned. I don’t know what that means, but not a good sign. The pre-conference schedule this year has had several setbacks to slow down the team’s progress. Darryl Watkins broke his nose, Terrence Roberts hurt his knee, several players missed games due to viral illness, and Eric Devondorf struggled through some off the court personal tragedies. So the team really hasn’t had too much time to be focused and cohesive. Unfortunately, the Big East season is now here, so they’ll have to put it all together in the big games.
Speaking of the “big games”; detractors of Coach Boeheim like to point out to his ‘cream puff’ schedule for all his wins. As pointed out, he is 260-27 in his pre-conference games, however as I’ve also mentioned, some of those were against some very good squads. Boeheim’s teams were 366-208 in all remaining games during that 27 year period: those would be Big East games, non-conference games in mid-season (typically a solid major conference team), Big East tournament games, and NCAA & NIT games. Boeheim’s squads win 64% of those games too. That’s a pretty good winning percentage against quality teams, almost 2/3rds.
Boeheim has a pretty good recipe: basically win all the games he’s supposed to win, and then win 2/3 of the tough games. There are always bumps in the road; nobody wins them all. But he wins most of them.