College basketball is almost upon us which means it’s time for the talking heads to pan Syracuse‘s out of conference and the amount of home games in it. For some reason, the media doesn’t like to talk about the long span of home games Kentucky or Kansas play. They also choose to ignore the neutral site games that Duke plays which aren’t exactly neutral. That said, let’s focus on the Orange and the games they have in November.
11/9 — San Diego State (U.S.S. Midway, San Diego, CA) — Syracuse gets the chance to play on a naval ship against the Aztecs to open up their season. SDSU returns four starters from a team that went 26-8 last season. Chase Tapley and James Rahon should be the Orange’s number one concern since they are seniors and two of the team’s better three-point shooters. Some fans will be familiar with St. John’s transfer Dwayne Polee II who is eligible this season after shooting 45.6% from the field in 2010-11.
11/18 — Wagner (Carrier Dome) — To the untrained eye, this seems to be another easy victory vs. a no-name program. The problem with that is the Seahawks were 25-6 last season and return all five starts. They are coached by Bashir Mason who is only 28 years old. Wagner knocked off Pittsburgh on the road last year and features a deep roster. Size could be an issue as they feature one player at 6-11 and two others at 6-8.
11/21 — Princeton (Carrier Dome) — The Tigers are another team that could pose problems. They won 20 games last season and feature three returning starters. The Tigers are led by Ian Hummer who shoots almost 47% from the field. They are a solid passing team and unlike Wagner, have five guys who are 6-10 or taller. Princeton finished last season winning nine of their last 11 making the quarterfinals of the CBI.
11/25 — Colgate (Carrier Dome) — Let’s call this one what it is. The Orange are playing a team in the area in a home game that will give them a bit of a break. Last year Syracuse won 92-47. The Raiders were 8-22 and return only two starters from that team. They ranked last in the Patriot League in defense and next to last in offense. They didn’t have a single player averaging double figures in points. This is a creamy delicious cupcake that I’m sure the bench brigade will enjoy.
11/30 — @ Arkansas (SEC/Big East Challenge) — First true non-outside road game for the Orange this season. In past years, this didn’t come to December or even later. This season the young team will travel to Fayetteville to take on the Razorbacks. Last year this team went 18-14 and features two returning starters. Marshawn Powell returns after a redshirt year and he averaged nearly 20 points per game. This will be a test for the Orange as Arkansas loves to push the tempo and force turnovers. Brandon Triche will have to be at his best if they hope to get out alive.
Verdict: To the untrained eye, this appears to be an easy slate. To me, this is the right mix of talented match-ups and cupcakes. Wagner and Princeton will each present the Orange a challenge while road games against the Aztecs and Razorbacks should quiet the critics. I could see a loss in this month, but we’ll say the Orange starts the year out 5-0.