Thursday, January 01, 2015
Syracuse has completed its non-conference schedule with a record of 9-4. They have eighteen ACC conference games coming up to help build their resume for the NCAA, along with the ACC tournament games. The Orange will have their work cut out for them, and will have the opportunities to do so.
The ACC currently has five teams in the AP Top 25: #2 Duke, #3 Virginia, #5 Louisville, #14 Notre Dame and #19 North Carolina. Syracuse will play Duke twice, and each of the other teams once, so as it stands rights now they have six opportunities to beat ranked team. That will likely change as the season progresses, as teams move up and down the rankings, but it gives a good starting point.
The initial part of the ACC schedule for Syracuse is a favorable one, and the Orange will need to take advantage of it because the back end of their schedule is murderous. Syracuse plays its first seven ACC games against non-ranked teams, and four of those are at home. The last seven games of their ACC schedule has them playing five games against teams ranked 14 or higher, including Duke twice.
Syracuse’s 9-4 non-conference record is not going to help them, but it is not going to hurt them too much. They did not have any terrible losses on their schedule, with all four wins being against major conference schools. KenPom.com has Villanova at #6, St. Johns at #23, California at #72 and Michigan at #74. Iowa gets credit for being an impressive win as it is a team from a major conference and KenPom has them rated #33, but none of the other wins are notable.
A 9-4 non-conference record is the 2nd worst record since Syracuse joined a conference in 1979-1980. In 1981-1982, the Orangemen were 8-4 with non-conference losses to unranked St. Josephs, Fordham, Ohio State and #4 ranked DePaul. This was the team led by triumvirate of Leo Rautins, Erich Santifer and Tony Bruin, and the team finished 7-7 in the Big East, 16-13 overall with an NIT bid. Not a good sign for this year’s team.
The Orange have been playing much better since their loss to St. John’s. Trevor Cooney has found his shooting touch and diversified his game. Michael Gbinije has improved his all-around game, plus improved his shooting, and Rakeem Christmas has cut down on the silly fouls giving him more playing time and remained a consistent steady inside force.
The parts are coming together but the Orange need more progression from others players. Chris McCullough has to learn how to handle being pushed around. Kaleb Joseph, or Ron Patterson, needs to step up and take control of the point guard position. Either B.J. Johnson or Tyler Roberson has to become more reliable on both the defensive and offensive end of the courts.
It all starts with the Virginia Tech game this Saturday. Go Orange!