The men's college basketball season is nearly to its quarter point, and for those that follow the sport closely there's one clear-cut opinion that can drawn as of Dec. 4–the Duke Blue Devils and Kentucky Wildcats will be the top two favorites to win the National Champion all year long.
Of course, there's about 20-25 other teams that can make a run in late March, as Louisville, Arizona, Wisconsin and Gonzaga are very talented as well, but Kentucky has the roster depth to run opponents into the ground and Duke has the starters and coaching talent to beat anyone into submission.
The Blue Devils did that Wednesday night in their big 80-70 win at Wisconsin in the main event of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Like last season, Duke can still shoot it, however, this season they have the inside presence of stud freshman Jahlil Okafor and a flashy play-making guard in Tyus Jones, who netted 22 points in Wednesday's victory.
It will be fun to see how good these two programs will be as the season progresses. Recent history has shown us that losses will come in a few bunches and we shouldn't expect each to enter March with zero losses, but these teams could do it if its rosters stay consistent. How cool would that be?
Anyway, Duke's impressive victories over Michigan State, Temple, Stanford and Wisconsin has helped the Orange, who's RPI currently ranks 27th in the nation. As much as, SU fans may hate the ranking, it is factored into the NCAA's decision making come March.
Also helping Syracuse's RPI are a few things early on: 1) On Wednesday night, Iowa defeated UNC on the road; 2) the top teams in the ACC–Duke, Louisville, Virginia and now Miami–look to be really good; 3) Saturday's opponent, 5-1 St. John's, is pretty solid through six games; 4) so is Conference USA favorite Louisiana Tech; 5) Villanova is a surprise top 10 squad; and 6) Cal hasn't had a bad loss since beating Syracuse a few weeks back.
Below is a detailed rundown of how Syracuse's former and upcoming opponents are doing so far this season. It is a bit lengthy, but it will please all of you Syracuse basketball fans who want to know what's going on in the world of college hoops.
Expect an update on the Orange's foes at least once a month.
No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (8-0): As mentioned above, the Blue Devils have clearly separated themselves, along with Kentucky, as favorites to win the National Title. Next week, college basketball fans should expect them to be ranked No. 2 in the country.
Their next biggest test will be next Thursday, Dec. 18, against the Connecticut Huskies. Duke plays at Syracuse on Feb. 14 and hosts the Orange on Feb. 28.
No. 5 Louisville Cardinals (6-0): On Tuesday, the Cardinals defeated the No. 14-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, 64-55. Louisville got a surprise and clutch performance from sophomore guard Terry Rozier, who scored nine of his 11 points in the final four minutes, including a 3-pointer that put a nail in the coffin of the Buckeyes with 46 seconds left.
Louisville was sparked by a dominating first half, which helped them earn a 17-point halftime advantage.
The Cardinals should easily continue to add to their win total until Dec. 27 when they host Kentucky. The Cardinals will play at Syracuse on Feb. 18.
No 7 Virginia Cavaliers (8-0): The Cavaliers earned a point for the league Wednesday when they earned a road win at the Maryland Terrapins, 76-65, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Junior guard Malcolm Brogdon scored a team-best 18 points, while junior guard Justin Anderson added 16 in UVA's eighth straight victory.
On Saturday, the Cavs play at VCU and will play at Syracuse on March 2.
No. 12 North Carolina Tar Heels (5-2): UNC probably played its way out of the top 25 on Wednesday when it lost at home to Iowa–yeap, the same Hawkeyes team that struggled against the Orange.
Oddly enough, Iowa didn't have a big shooting night (just 33 percent from the field and 3 for 20 from behind the 3-point arc) (Was it mentioned Iowa missed all 12 of its 3-point attempts in the second half? Yeah. Ouch.), but did out-muscle the Tar Heels by snagging 16 offensive rebounds.
This was UNC's second loss in a week, as it was beaten by Butler, 74-66, in the first round of the Battle for Atlantis Tournament. The Tar Heels did beat UCLA and Florida in their respective games. It's fair to say, Roy Williams squad hasn't shook its roller coaster-like play from last year.
No. 15 Miami Hurricanes (8-0): Since their impressive road win at Florida (69-67) on Nov. 17, the Hurricanes have kept winning. Miami cruised to the Charleston Classic title last week and earned a 70-61 victory over the nationally-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini on Tuesday.
Miami will need to get by a 5-1 Green Bay Phoenix squad on Saturday, if it wants to have a chance to head into its Dec. 22 showdown with the Providence Friars unbeaten. The Hurricanes will play at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 24.
(rv) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1): ACC's most surprising team of the early season collected a solid 79-78 overtime victory against the No. 19 Michigan State Spartans on Wednesday. Jerami Grant's older sibling, Jerian, netted a collegiate-best 27 points, while sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson netted six of his 19 points in the extra session to help UND to the win.
Currently, Grant leads the ACC in scoring and assists, averaging nearly 19 points and 8 assists per game. Early on, Grant is the ACC Player of the Year. The Orange will see him on Feb. 24 when they visit Purcell Pavillion.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-1): GT has been a nice early-season surprise, though it hasn't really played anyone in the non-conference. Its latest victory came at the Northwestern Wildcats, 68-58, on Wednesday. The win is the latest in a three-game winning streak, which began after the Yellow Jackets lost to the Marquette Golden Eagles, 72-70, on Nov. 27.
Syracuse will play at McCamish Pavilion on Jan. 7.
North Carolina State Wolfpack (6-1): N.C. State will be looking to rebound from a disappointing 66-61 loss at the Purdue Boilermakers on Tuesday. The Wolfpack did not score in the game's final 3:11, but still managed to make 45% of their shots. Purdue made just 39 percent of its shots.
NC State begins ACC play on Saturday when its visits Danny Manning's Wake Forest squad. They will also be tested with games against the West Virginia Mountaineers (7-0), Dec. 20, and Cincinnati Bearcats (6-1), Dec. 30. They host Syracuse in its final regular-season game on March. 7.
Florida State Seminoles (3-4): FSU has been one of the bigger ACC disappointments during the early season, as the Seminoles are coming off a 70-65 loss against the visiting Nebraska Cornhuskers. Already this season, FSU has lost to the Northeastern Huskies (76-73), Providence Friars (80-54) and UMass Minutemen (75-69).
The Seminoles were picked to finish eighth in the ACC Preseason Polls.
Virginia Tech Hokies (4-3): Buzz Williams is doing his best job to coach up his new squad, but early on the Hokies aren't providing any impressive results. They've already lost the Appalachian St. Mountaineers (65-63), Northern Iowa Panthers (73-54) and on Wednesday lost at the Penn State Nittany Lions (61-58).
They play at Syracuse on Jan. 3 and host the Orange on Feb. 3.
Boston College Eagles (3-3): On Thursday, the Eagles will look for a staple victory as it hosts 6-1 Providence. Boston College doesn't have any awful losses on its resume, as UMass, West Virginia and Dayton all got the best of Eagles.
BC opens ACC play by playing at Duke on Jan. 3. They will travel to the Carrier Dome on Jan. 20 and will host the Orange on Feb. 11.
Pittsburgh Panthers (4-3): The biggest ACC disappointment in the early-season has to go to the Panthers, who dropped games to the 7-2 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (74-70), No. 17 San Diego St. Aztecs (74-57) and Indiana Hoosiers (81-69).
Pitt should cruise through its typical easy non-conference schedule until it begins its ACC schedule with games at NC State and Boston College. The Panthers will host Syracuse on Feb. 7 and will visit the Carrier Dome on Feb. 21.
Clemson Tigers (4-3): The Tigers lost to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 69-64, on Monday, and that's basically all you need to know about them. It will be a very long season for Clemson on the hardwood.
No. 10 Villanova Wildcats (7-0): The Orange's match up on Dec. 20 will be a big one, as the Wildcats should be 10-0 by then and could be ranked in the top 10. For the record, 'Nova defeated the Va. Commonwealth Rams (77-53) and Michigan (60-55) in the Legends Classic.
The Wildcats biggest test before SU will be a Dec. 9 showdown with No. 24-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini.
No. 17 Michigan Wolverines (6-1): We all know how Tuesday's showdown between the Wolverines and Orange finished. Michigan's next biggest test comes on Dec. 13, when they visit the Arizona Wildcats.
Iowa Hawkeyes (6-2): Syracuse was given a gift from the college basketball gods Wednesday night, as they earned a road victory at North Carolina. Junior guard Mike Gesell scored a team-best 16 points for the Hawkeyes, who have won four straight since their loss to the Orange, 66-63, on Nov. 21.
Iowa plays at Michigan on Feb. 5.
On Wednesday, after defeating Cal Poly (72-52) and Fresno State (64-57), the Bears snakes past the Montana Grizzlies, 78-76, in double overtime. Tyrone Wallace recorded his third double-double of the season with 22 points and career-best 15 rebounds.
St. John's Red Storm (5-1): SU's next opponent is coming off a 70-57 victory over the Niagara Purple Eagles on Tuesday. D'Angelo Harrison (yeap, he's still there) scored 13 of his 16 points in the first half to propel the Johnnies to the rebound win.
The Red Storm's lone loss came against the No. 9 Gonzaga Bulldogs, 73-66, in the NIT Season Tip-Off championship game. St. John's trailed by as much as 15 points midway through the second half, but climbed within three points, 66-63, with 1:01 remaining in the game. Gonzaga put the game away with a 3-pointer with 38 second left.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (6-1): Picked as Conference USA's preseason favorites, the Bulldogs lone loss came at the hands of the Temple Owls, 82-75, on Nov. 17, but since then has won five straight games.
Louisiana Tech's showdown with the Orange on Dec. 14 will be its second straight on the road, as they play at the UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns three days prior. The Bulldogs final non-conference game will be at the N.C. State on Dec. 23.
Long Beach State 49ers (5-4): The 49ers have struggled in the non-conference, however, earned a 73-70 victory over the Xavier Musketeers on Nov. 30. Oddly, it was the second game this season between the non-conference foes, which also met on Nov. 18, when Xavier blew out Long Beach St., 97-74.
Other losses for the 49ers have come to BYU (95-90), UCLA (77-63) and Washington (80-70).