You'll have to excuse the lazy sportswriters who said before this season began that Syracuse was returning to it's old ways of scheduling soft. Clearly, they didn't stop to think about the mini-gauntlet the Orange are about to run.
Thursday - No. 13 Cal (2-0)
Friday - No. 5 North Carolina (2-0) or No. 15 Ohio State (2-0)
Tuesday - Cornell (1-0)
The first two games are givens for being tough but the Big Red have already proved they're still an opponent to be reckoned with after their 71-67 win at Alabama.
While the Orange still don't know who they'll be facing off against on Friday, the two opponents they do know both offer major challenges to the 2-3 Zone...the dreaded lights-out shooter.
Cal and Cornell are two of the nation's best 3-point shooting teams. Last year, Cal led the nation in 3-point field goal percentage at 42.7 percent. Cornell was fourth at 41.1.
Both teams expect to equal or better those numbers this season. The Bears are shooting 41.4 percent (12-of-29) from that distance in their two wins this year. Cornell made 56 percent of its threes (10-of-18) in its season-opening win at Alabama.
Commence boot-shaking, Orange fans. Nothing breaks down the zone (or any defense, I suppose) like strong outside shooters. While the Orange looked good against Albany and Robert Morris, those were just warm-ups compared to the next week's games. SU doesn't need to win all of them but things could go south in a hurry if the Orange don't step up their game and keep the momentum.
The Big Red play at UMass on Wednesday and host Seton Hall on Friday. SU fans would be wise to keep an eye on the them.
I suppose it could be worse, we could have overscheduled like North Carolina:
North Carolina are about to embark on a portion of their schedule in which they will face five ranked teams in an 8-game span. The Tar Heels' schedule includes Ohio State, either Cal or Syracuse, Michigan State, Kentucky and Texas.