Remember after the Wisconsin loss when I wrote a piece about how Syracuse Orange fans need to step back from the ledge and things will probably work themselves out?
Yeah, so...about that.
I mean, look, it IS still early December. Many a Syracuse squad has left us scratching our heads ten games into the season only to make us cheer in delight come March. But after losing to UConn, our third loss in three games away from the Carrier Dome, I’m starting to get an old familiar feeling and I don’t quite like it.
The whole “Syracuse fattens up on cupcakes and never leaves New York” adage really hit it’s stride in the 2000s. Those years, if SU left New York before January, it was once. Maybe twice. We didn’t really play true road games and we did indeed fatten up on cupcakes in the Dome. Hey, sometimes stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, right?
But that era ended a while back, too. Syracuse has been making yearly treks to early season tournaments (and winning them). We’ve been playing more non-conference games on the road or at neutral sites far, far away. We played San Diego State on a friggin’ boat, you know? So anytime someone tries to go that route on us now, we usually laugh and easily debunk it.
So far this season, it’s not that we haven’t traveled. But it’s what we’ve done away from Upstate New York that’s sending that old school message about the Orange.
All of our five wins were in the Dome against inferior opponents (Colgate, Holy Cross, Monmouth, South Carolina State, North Florida). All of our three losses have come elsewhere against programs that would consider our peers or even a bit below us (at Wisconsin, South Carolina in Brooklyn, UConn in MSG). That paints a pretty stark picture. That Syracuse is fattening up it’s record on cupcakes but can’t hang with the real teams when it matters.
It also doesn’t help that we officially don’t have any quality non-conference games left on the schedule. I’m not trying to troll Georgetown and St. John’s, it’s literally not true. Even if we win-out before ACC play, that means we’ll be 9-3 and our best win will be over a Georgetown team who lost to Arkansas State and barely beat Elon. And right now, honestly, I don’t think we’re allowed to assume we’ll win that game anyway.
Again, there is still so much season ahead and lots of time for this team to figure out what it is and how it’s going to score points. But it’s hard not to look at the non-conference slate as a failure already, which is saying something considering we’re still roughly a month away from conference play.
SU has given itself quite the challenge if it doesn’t play well in the ACC. The safety net of non-conference quality wins that were there to boost us last season will not be there this time around. So the margin of error is that much smaller. Yet another thing that reminds me of the late 2000s, when NITs became a bit too much of a norm.