We’ve dissected the November slate for the Syracuse Orange and now we move on to December which is a travel-friendly month. The school plays seven games at home with one other taking place at Madison Square Garden which might as well be home as well. Unfortunately, this month illustrates the point of the talking heads who bash the school for their weak out of conference slate.
12/3 – vs. Eastern Michigan — The Eagles went 14-18 last year, but their story has a distinct Syracuse feel to it. Head Coach Rob Murphy was an assistant with the Orange from 2004-2001 before jumping to Ypsilanti. The school also features Syracuse transfer Da’Shonte Riley who was the 85th ranked recruit in the Class of 2009. The school also features transfers from Arkansas, Providence and Wyoming. There should be no troubles here. Last year, this was an 84-48 Orange win.
12/6 – vs. Long Beach State — As a personal aside, this was one of my favorite teams to watch last season. Problem for this season is that four of five starters are gone. The 49ers went 25-9 losing in the NCAA Tournament second round. James Ennis is back at forward with Mike Caffey contributing in the backcourt. Another name to watch is Keala King, who came from Arizona State where he averaged 13.7 points per game. By the time this game is played, the 49ers will have been at USC, Arizona and have played North Carolina as well.
12/8 vs. Monmouth — The Hawks were 12-20 last season with three starters returning for this campaign. King Rice is back for his second season and he’ll rely heavily on Dion Nesmith and Jesse Steele in the backcourt. This should be an easy win after the quick turnaround.
12/15 vs. Canisius — This starts the Gotham Classic where the Orange play three games at home sandwiched around a game at MSG against Temple. The Golden Griffins were 5-25 last season, but are returning four starters. Jim Baron is the head coach here after 11 years at Rhode Island. Transfers are the name of the game here with Freddy Asprilla (Kansas State), Isaac Sosa (Central Florida) and Billy Baron (Virginia) all playing their part. No sweat here.
12/17 vs. Detroit — This will be a fun game as the Titans are not just any ordinary mid major. They feature Ray McCallum Jr. who is one of the most explosive guards in the country. He is backed by Jason Calliste and Nick Minnerath. Another name to watch is Juwan Howard Jr. who transferred to the school from Western Michigan. This is a smallish team, but they are littered with shooters and players who can break down a zone. BEWARE
12/22 vs. Temple — This one takes place at Madison Square Garden and will be the biggest challenge of the month. Fran Dunphy’s boys play the game right and will not be scared of this game. Temple plays from the inside out with Scootie Randall and Dalton Pepper manning the front court after missing last season. Pepper came from West Virginia where he didn’t play much despite tons of fanfare. Randall will be joined by Khalif Wyatt who is a pure scorer. Watch out for Jake O’Brien who came over from Boston University and will play right away. The Owls will have a December quite the opposite of Syracuse having already played Duke and Villanova with a game against Kansas coming January 6th.
12/29 vs. Alcorn State — The Braves went 10-22 last season in the SWAC conference. They return four starters and have six seniors on the roster. The Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook calls them the sleeper of the conference. This means Syracuse will struggle for all of four minutes before taking control.
12/31 vs. Central Connecticut State — Another team with a losing record closes out the December slate for Syracuse. They went 13-16 in the Northeast Conference. An old classic coaches this team in Howie Dickenman who has been at the school for sixteen seasons. I can’t imagine this game taking too much of an effort as they prepare for Big East play
Verdict: Another undefeated month. This group of squads just don’t represent much of a challenge outside of Temple. Last year’s Long Beach State team would have given the ‘Cuse a battle. This one doesn’t have the firepower to keep up. Chalk up eight more wins before the real fun begins.