Sunday, January 12, 2014

All Time Toughest Opponents

Syracuse basketball fans have had it very fortunate over the years. In the first 112 years of varsity basketball, the Orangemen had only 16 losing seasons.  Of those sixteen seasons, four of them occurred before 1911, and nine of them prior to 1950.  The last losing season was 1968-1969.  The current 2013-2014 will add another winning season for the Orange, and losing seasons do not appear to be on the short term horizon. Fortunate indeed.

Syracuse has played 280 different teams since 1900.  Only 25 of those schools have a winning advantage over the Orange.  Ten of those schools have played Syracuse only once, and beat the Orange in that lone appearance. This includes Austin Peay, Baldwin-Wallace, Cleveland State, Denison, Denver, East Liverpool, Oral Roberts, Texas A&M, Tulsa and Williston Seminary.

Eastern Kentucky, Crescent Athletic Club, Illinois, and the St. John's Military Academy all have a 2-1 advantage over the Orange.   It is unlikely that Syracuse would ever play Crescent Athletic Club or St. John's Military Academy again.

Clemson, Iowa and Schenectady County East (whomever they are) have a 2-0 advantage over Syracuse. The Orange will now meet Clemson regularly, so the true nature of that series will resolve itself.  Iowa will likely require a couple of pre-season or post-season tournaments to get the matchups.

That leaves eight programs that have a real historical advantage over the Syracuse basketball squad.  There used to be nine, but Syracuse evened up the series with North Carolina with their win yesterday.  These are the teams, historically speaking, the Orange would not want to meet in a critical game:

#8:  The Oklahoma State Cowboys hold a 3-2 edge over the Orange.  OSU has won the past two games in the series, and the two teams have split their two matches in the NCAA tournament.  Oklahoma State was one of the teams Syracuse beat on its way to the national championship in 2003.

#7:  The Bradley Braves have a 3-1 edge over the Orangemen.  Bradley was a power house team in the early 1950s, when Syracuse faced them three times. The Orangemen upset them 76-75 in the National Campus Tournament finals in 1951.  Bradley upset the Orangemen in the 1982 NIT Tournament.

#6:  The Ohio State Buckeyes have a 5-2 advantage over the Orange.  The two teams have met twice in the NCAA tournament, with Ohio State beating the Orangemen both times; the last time was the Elite Eight in 2012.  The two teams first met in 1911.

#5: The Maryland Terrapins have a 5-2 edge over the Orange.  The two teams are now in the same conference, but only for one year, as the Terrapins move to the Big 10 next year. That is a shame, because geographically they would have made a real fine rival in the ACC.  Maryland beat the Orangemen the first five times they met, with Lefty Driesell on the bench.  However, the Orange have won the last two games in the series.  The two teams have met four times in the post-season, splitting those games.

#4:  The City College of New York (CCNY) Beavers have an 8-5 edge over the Orangemen.  CCNY was once a power house in college basketball, from the 1920's until the 1950's under legendary coach Nate Holman.  The Beavers' program was overshadowed and decimated by the infamous point shaving scandal of the 1950s, and it now a Division III program.

#3: The NewYork University Violets (NYU) have a 12-9 edge over Syracuse.  NYU was a power house in the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s in college basketball, and the Orangemen played them routinely then.  NYU holds the distinction of handing the Orangemen their worst margin of defeat ever.  Of course, the 1961-1962 Syracuse squad was the worst team ever fielded on the Hill, with a 2-22 overall record.

#2: The Kentucky Wildcats have an 8-3 advantage over the Orangemen. The Wildcats have long been one of the most established and successful programs in college basketball, so this should come as no surprise.  One of the notable early games was in 1964 with #9 ranked Kentucky beating unranked Syracuse 110-77.  It was notable because the Adolph Rupp coached Wildcats starred future Laker manager Pat Riley, while the Orangemen were led by two gentleman named Dave Bing and Jim Boeheim.    While the Orangemen have not had tremendous success against the Wildcats, it should be noted that Syracuse is 2-0 versus Kentucky at home, and 1-2 versus Kentucky in the NCAA tournament (one of those losses being the 1996 National Championship game).

#1: The Louisville Cardinals have been a thorn in Syracuse's side for much of its recent history.  The two teams first met in 1964, which the Cardinals won 67-62.   It's been a struggle since then as the Cardinals hold a 15-7 edge over the Orangemen. It doesn't seem to matter who coaches, whether is it Peck Hickman (2-0), Denny Crum (4-3)  or Rick Pitino (9-4) but Louisville has the Orange's number.  Louisville held only a 6-4 edge as of 2006, but then they won seven straight against the Orange.  Recent history as Big East foes has intensified the rivalry, and with Louisville moving to the ACC next season, there will be plenty of time for the Orange to rectify this imbalance.

Let's go Orange!

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