Sunday, June 01, 2008

Orange Basketball Schedule - One Man's Preference

If I were czar of Men’s NCAA basketball day, and I could make changes that would be irreversible, one of things I would address is setting up the basketball schedule for the Syracuse Orange. I am going to assume 30 games as the regular season schedule.

There are three things I would want to accomplish with my schedule. First, playing a schedule that would be rich in tradition for Syracuse and its fans. Second, playing teams that geographically will help the Orange in recruiting on an ongoing basis. Third, playing teams that routinely would help Syracuse with the ever-so-popular RPI. And fourth, playing teams that would permanently prevent the media from hyping how ‘Syracuse never leaves New York state’.

As I mentioned several months back, I have no problem with Syracuse playing the in-state teams. In fact, I think there is an obligation of sorts. Keep in mind that the national media carries a bias. They want to have games between big name teams on every night of the season, from the very first tip off through the national championship. It builds for better ratings, and frankly, it makes the job easier for the ‘talking heads’ as there are fewer teams they have to truly study up on. But I digress.

As NCAA czar, I am not going to kick any teams out of the Big East conference. I think those types of actions are bush league. All teams contribute, all deserve to belong. However, a balanced schedule of any format is not really possible with 16 teams, not if you want any type of non-conference schedule. So I’m setting Syracuse up with a 20 game conference schedule, where they will play five teams twice a year, and the other ten teams once each season. I am not going to rotate this schedule; it would be permanent. So every season, Syracuse would have the same five teams for home-and-home, and they would alternate the home/away with the other ten.

The five home-and-home teams are Georgetown, Pittsburgh, St. Johns, UConn, and Villanova. The Hoyas and Huskies are hated rivals, and Syracuse has to play them at home each season. Enough said there. Syracuse needs to play at least one game a year in Madison Square Garden during the regular season, so you’ve got to have a home-and-home with the Red Storm to get that. Syracuse needs one road game in Philadelphia each year, so that gives you Nova on the home and home. And Syracuse has been playing Pittsburgh since both teams started playing hoops (a total of 96 times with the Orange holding a 61-35 lead over Pitt to date). Plus exposure in Western Pennsylvania helps with the Midwest.

That leaves one game a year with Notre Dame, Providence, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, South Florida, and West Virginia. Notre Dame and WVU are the only two I briefly considered for home-and-home, but I could find no reason for one of them over the other five. This brings Syracuse up to 20 games.

I would have the Orange play in one pre-season tournament each year, with a guaranteed two games. We could rotate the preseason NIT, Great Alaska Shootout, Maui Invitational and Coaches vs. Cancer. If the Orange did well, they may pick up an additional two or three games, but the two guaranteed are what matter. So we’re at 22 games.

I would schedule one game a season against both Colgate and Cornell. Colgate and Syracuse used to have a bitter rivalry with many close games, and they have met each other 160 times. The Orange have had the upper hand for 40+ years now, and hold a 115-45 lead. If you’re going to have some easy games (and you are), they might as well mean something. Same with Cornell. Syracuse and Cornell have a long series with 115 games, Syracuse leading 84-31, and there was even some fighting during the Derrick Coleman era. So we’re at 24 games.

I’d have two more games each year against two of the following four teams: Niagara, Canisius, St. Bonaventure and Buffalo. If Syracuse wants to throw in Albany, Binghamton, and other New York schools, I’m not going to argue it. I just want two more New York schools into the preseason schedule. Niagara with 81 games and Canisius with 67 are the most common opponents of Syracuse, but any would do. That gets us to 26 games.

I’d have Syracuse play one of the following three Big 10 teams each season: Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan. I think Ohio State and Michigan bring a consistently competitive program and the opportunity to get exposure in Ohio and Michigan that could help Syracuse. Penn State is a long time rivalry that should be restarted in some format, though I’m not willing to commit to it on a regular basis, particularly since it helps Penn State far more than Syracuse. But Penn State is Big 10, so this rotation of three gives Syracuse a non-conference Big 10 game.

I would rotate playing Southern California (USC) and UCLA. A road trip to Los Angeles every other season would not be too trying on the Orange, and it would help revitalize a dormant West Coast pipeline (that current assistant Mike Hopkins should be able to take advantage of). Plus it gives the Orange a Pac 10 game. That gets us to 28 games.

The last two games I would have permanently on the schedule as a rotating home/away series. I would want Boston College on the schedule every year. They used to be a great rivalry for the Orange, and it’s time to bury the hatchet from the ACC defection. Plus the BC game now counts as a non-conference games against a big name conference. The second game would be having Maryland on the schedule every season. It’s hard to believe that Syracuse has only played the Terrapins seven times. Maryland is in a hot bed of Syracuse recruiting for the past 25 years, and it is such a logical team for the Orange to play (honestly, Maryland should have been a Big East school many years back... it would’ve helped football and basketball). Plus Maryland is an ACC team, so that helps the non-conference schedule.

So there’s my schedule. You end up with 20 Big East Conference games, 2 ACC games, 1 Big 10 game, 1 Pac 10 game, and four second tier New York State teams. Plus you get two more games in a preseason tournament which will garner more exposure, and with a little success in those tournaments get you games against other top flight teams. With the exception of the years the Penn State gets into the rotation, you have 4 games against solid major college schools each non-conference season (not counting those tournament games). There are no games against the so-called mid-majors… Syracuse won’t get burned by any of them having a bad season, or by any of them pulling the upset.

I would have liked to have had a rotation with the other four Big 5 schools of Philadelphia (Drexel, St. Josephs, Temple and LaSalle); and I would have liked one game against the MAC. But the bloated Big East took up my remaining slots, and I was not going to drop a Big East team.

The weakness in my schedule is that it will force the Orange to leave the Dome for a few non-conference games, which will hurt the financial status of the program. The four games against the major conference teams would all be home/away series, so two of those games each season would be away instead of home. The four NY state games would be home… so Syracuse would get six home games, and four road games in its non-conference schedule each year. I know coach Jim Boeheim would prefer more of a 8-2 ratio there, and so would I, but in order to rotate the major conference teams, the Orange are going to have to play some games on the road.
To recap, the games would be:


  • Colgate (home)
  • Cornell (home)
  • Rotation of first of Niagara, Canisius, Buffalo, St. Bonaventure (home)
  • Rotation of second of Niagara, Canisius, Buffalo, St. Bonaventure (home)
  • Maryland: ACC (alternating home/away)
  • Boston College: ACC (alternating home/away)
  • Rotation of Big 10: Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State (alternating home/away)
  • Rotation of Pac 10: UCLA, USC (alternating home/away)
  • Pre-season tourney game #1
  • Pre-season tourney game #2

Conference Games

  • Georgetown (home)
  • Georgetown (away)
  • UConn (home)
  • UConn (away)
  • Pitt (home)
  • Pitt (away)
  • St. Johns (home)
  • St. Johns (away)
  • Villanova (home)
  • Villanova (away)
  • West Virginia (alternating home/away)
  • Rutgers (alternating home/away)
  • Seton Hall (alternating home/away)
  • Providence (alternating home/away)
  • Notre Dame (alternating home/away)
  • Marquette (alternating home/away)
  • DePaul (alternating home/away)
  • Louisville (alternating home/away)
  • Cincinnati (alternating home/away)
  • South Florida (alternating home/away)


Brian Harrison said...

I can understand Michigan and Ohio State in the Big 10 non-conference slate you have, but Penn State? They are terrible at basketball and have not really been a rival of Syracuse other than in football. I would propose Michigan State instead. Especially since Syracuse played a home and home with them in recent years. It is a much sexier match up to watch by far.

As for the rest of the schedule, I think you're pretty much right on the money.

OrangeRay said...

I struggled with the Penn State decision, and strongly considered Michigan State. From an historical perspective, Syracuse had a very long rivalry with Penn State, that pretty much dissolved in the 60s. Regionally, they are one of the closest Div I schools around. Their basketball program is very weak, and it would be a bigger benefit for Penn State than for Syracuse. That they were a Big 10 school, regional, and historical were what led me to put them into the rotation... but I could easily see positioning it so SU has a 2:1 home/away schedule with them... take it or leave it.

Michigan State would be a good addition, in lieu of Penn State.