Nearly every Syracuse Orange fan remembers the shenanigans of 2003 when the Orange, bags packed for the ACC, were replaced at the last minute by Virginia Tech, courtesy of then-Va. governor Mark Warner's insistence. The move would result in a decade-long run of success for the Hokies in their new home, while SU spent nearly 10 years struggling in the Big East.
But what if things had happened the other way? What if Jim Boeheim's complaints about the switch fell on deaf ears, and what if Warner's efforts to upgrade the Hokies were undone before he could extract them from the Big East? Would things have gone dramatically different for Syracuse in the ACC all this time?
With some help from sports simulation site WhatIfSports.com, we can take at least a speculative look at what might've been for Syracuse on a season-by-season basis. While these simulations won't build new recruiting classes or anything like that, we can take a look at where the Orange would've fallen overall, had they made the ACC switch earlier.
Please note that for our purposes here, we’ll simply use Virginia Tech's in-conference slate, so as not to create a brand new scheduling matrix. SU will also compete in football's Coastal division (rather than the Atlantic division they've been placed in in real life), just as Virginia Tech did starting in their second ACC season. Obviously this won't matter for basketball.
Non-conference record: 13-1
#4 North Carolina 89, #7 Syracuse 74
In their ACC basketball opener, Syracuse gets absolutely trounced by North Carolina. Raymond Felton and Sean May lead the way for the Heels, scoring 19 apiece, while Hakim Warrick is the only Orange player to score more than 13, tallying 23 in his 28 minutes of play. (13-2) (0-1)
#7 Syracuse 69, Florida State 50
Syracuse learns from its mistakes against UNC, winning their first ACC road contest against Florida State. Not a single 'Noles player scored in double digits here, as SU held them to 36-percent shooting, while managing to record 43 rebounds for themselves. (14-2) (1-1)
#10 Syracuse 74, Clemson 73
Hakim Warrick helps Syracuse overcome a rough first half, hitting the game-winner against Clemson in the 74-73 win. SU’s defense came up big again too, managing to hold the Tigers to just 26 points in the second half. (15-2) (2-1)
#10 Syracuse 76, NC State 62
Gerry McNamara, Josh Pace and Hakim Warrick lead the way as SU wins its third straight conference game. Beyond State’s Julius Hodge, no Wolfpack player recorded more than seven points, and as a team they were outrebounded by the Orange 2:1. (16-2) (3-1)
#10 Syracuse 88, #15 Georgia Tech 83
The Orange broke out in the second half against the Yellow Jackets, scoring 51 points en route to a big five-point victory. Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick both accounted for more than 20 points, with McNamara going five-of-eight from three. (17-2) (4-1)
#6 Syracuse 83, Virginia 56
Five straight wins for Syracuse after their demolition derby win over UVA. And again, it was Hakim Warrick's hot hand (26 points) that led them to victory, along with another impressive defensive performance as the team allowed just 19 points in the second half. (18-2) (5-1)
#6 Syracuse 75, #2 Duke 73
After being dealt their first loss of the season against Maryland earlier in the week, Duke drops another home game to Syracuse in the country’s marquee matchup of the weekend. The difference ends up being Gerry McNamara's 24 points (6-for-12 from three) and some key late free throws to ice it. (19-2) (6-1)
#4 Syracuse 63, Miami 46
Hakim Warrick's double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds) leads Syracuse to its seventh straight ACC win while overcoming a less-than-stellar team shooting night. Miami shoots just 27.7-percent from the floor, while tallying just 21 points in the second half. (20-2) (7-1)
#8 Wake Forest 83, #4 Syracuse 72
SU's run ends after being sunk by poor shooting and a standout performance from Wake's Justin Gray. Terrence Roberts ends up being the leading scorer for the Orange with 13 points, a sure sign of the team failing to ever get anything going on the offensive end. (20-3) (7-2)
#7 Syracuse 74, Maryland 69
Four players score in double-figures and SU overcomes a poor night from the free-throw line (10-for-27) to put away the Terps late. There was very little to brag about in this win, especially after allowing 40 points in the second half, but a win’s a win and the Orange get back on track. (21-3) (8-2)
#7 Syracuse 72, Virginia 58
Syracuse begins to regain their stroke on offense, shooting 50-percent from the floor, but the game is won with defense and on the glass. The Orange outrebound the Hoos by 13, and hold them to 38-percent shooting en route to another big road win. (22-3) (9-2)
#6 Syracuse 77, #9 Duke 72
The Orange win their second top-10 matchup with Duke in a month, outlasting the Blue Devils in a thriller at the Carrier Dome. Gerry McNamara (26 points) leads all scorers and SU shoots 50-percent from the three-point line to hand Duke its second-straight loss (once again, following a loss to Maryland). (23-3) (10-2)
#6 Syracuse 61, Miami 52
Both teams shoot terribly from the floor (42-percent for Syracuse, 38-percent for Miami) and it’s Louie McCroskey who shockingly leads the way for the Orange, scoring 13 points. Following their big night from three against Duke, SU hits just 20-percent from outside the line against the ‘Canes. (24-3) (11-2)
#4 Syracuse 75, NC State 65
Syracuse out-shoots and out-rebounds NC State, on their way to a comfortable road win and their fifth-straight victory overall. Gerry McNamara scores 20 points, while also shooting a perfect nine-for-nine from the free-throw line. (25-3) (12-2)
#4 Syracuse 81, Clemson 69
Ten different players score for Clemson, but it fails to matter all that much against Syracuse, who rolls to yet another ACC victory. For the second straight game, SU shoots above 50-percent from the field, and capitalizes on big free throw chances (17-of-21 from the line). (26-3) (13-2)
Maryland 85, #4 Syracuse 74
Maryland's hot shooting from the three-point line (59-percent) ends up sinking Syracuse in their regular-season finale. The Terps huge upset was never really in doubt here, as they cruised into the half with a five-point lead, and then immediately padded that total when the teams came back on the court. (26-4) (13-3), 3rd in the ACC
ACC Tournament Quarterfinals: #5 Syracuse 79, Virginia 60
Efficient shooting and sound defense lead SU to its third win over Virginia in the calendar year. The Orange outscored the Cavaliers by 15 in the second half, running away with a game that only had a four-point margin after 20 minutes. (27-4) (13-3)
ACC Tournament Semifinals: NC State 77, #5 Syracuse 64
After pulling off an upset of Wake Forest in the quarterfinals, NC State scored another surprise while taking down Syracuse. Julius Hodge led a manic start to the game for the Wolfpack, who went in the locker room with a 13-point lead at half. The Orange sunk themselves early as well, with poor shooting from three (27 percent) and the free-throw line (46-percent). (27-5) (13-3)
NCAA Tournament: Syracuse Scores No. 2 Seed in Albuquerque Regional
Round of 64: #2 Syracuse 71, #15 Chatanooga 62
Fiction fails to mimic reality here (thank God), and the Orange are not upset in the first round. While Gerry McNamara has a poor day from the field (five points), Hakim Warrick’s strong 26-point effort picks up the slack, and SU is on to the next round.
Round of 32: #2 Syracuse 80, #7 West Virginia 75
Somehow, it always ends up being West Virginia, doesn't it? The Orange shake off the shooting rust from the first round, connecting on 30-of-57 shots from the field in a big win over rival WVU. The story of the game ended up being SU’s comeback though, roaring back from eight down at one point in the second half to pull off the victory.
Sweet 16: #6 Texas Tech 85, #2 Syracuse 76
SU has yet another rough first half, but this time, they just can't seem to complete the comeback, falling to Texas Tech in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicates. Tech was lethal from the floor, shooting nearly 60-percent on the game, while Jarrius Jackson consistently abused the Orange.
While Syracuse avoided the dreaded Vermont upset, the Orange still fell victim to a tournament upset and ultimately fell short of expectations. But 30 wins and a Sweet 16 berth during their first season in the ACC can't be considered a total loss, and stands as a huge improvement over the real-life results.
So how will Syracuse football do in its first season under
Greg Gerg Robinson? Find out the potentially terrifying details next week.