It’s been a busy year of Syracuse Orange sports, but unfortunately it wasn’t the championship-winning one we’d probably imagined. Syracuse football went 4-8 once again and the SU men’s hoops team missed the NCAA Tournament. Orange women’s basketball was underseeded, and both the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams fell well short of expectations.
The lone exception was Justyn Knight, who made his own history with an individual NCAA Championship. However, SU track and field fell short of its team goals in the same breath.
So turning the calendar to 2018, what are we expecting to happen to Syracuse athletics? Our New Year’s resolutions -- or really, top predictions — for the Orange next year:
1. Syracuse men’s basketball returns to the NCAA Tournament as a 10-seed
This year’s team was likely going to struggle to make March Madness. We knew this, but it gets tougher to stomach once you’re IN the season and see what the squad is capable of. This year’s group powers past depth issues and offensive struggles to get back to the tourney. They lose in the first weekend, but we’re pretty pleased with the effort.
2. Orange football recruiting ranks just outside the top 50
At one point, something in the top 40 was within shouting distance, but Tyrone Sampson’s departure knocks that down a peg. So while the Orange may end up ranked just outside the top 50 at the end of this recruiting cycle, keep in mind it’s a small class (22) and still one loaded with top-end talent. It’s inarguable that Dino Babers has upgraded the talent level coming in.
3. Tyus Battle averages 20 points per game
No Orange player has averaged over 20 points per game since Hakim Warrick in 2004-05. Battle currently averages just 20.1, so he’ll need to increase his production to keep the pace and end up on the elite list. I think he can pull it off (and Syracuse making the NCAAs might depend on it).
4. Orange women’s basketball makes second Sweet 16 ever
If you haven’t been paying attention, the SU women’s team is off to another hot start despite turning over nearly the entire roster. After falling short last year, the new standard Coach Q has set for this program will be accomplished in March. The Orange fight their way to the second weekend before falling to... probably UConn again.
5. Both Syracuse lacrosse teams return to the Final Four
Following a run of five straight Final Four bids, SU women’s lax took a step back last year. The Orange men, meanwhile, haven’t made it to the final weekend since 2013. Being a little off the radar for a championship this spring may actually play to both teams’ respective advantages. It won’t be easy, but both assume their rightful places back in the Final Four.
6. SU softball makes it back to the NCAA Tournament
The Orange fell well short of their goals last year, but showed enough promise to see a brighter future ahead. After failing to do so yet in the ACC, they get over the hump and make the NCAAs this year on the back of quality pitching (though still fall short of the College World Series).
7. Eric Dungey plays a full season of football
In three seasons at SU, it’s yet to happen. But with an experienced and improved offensive line in front of him for 2018, it’s more likely now than ever. The senior quarterback even contends for the ACC’s offensive player of the year award (which he barely loses to FSU’s Cam Akers). But Dungey playing all 12 games likely means...
8. Syracuse football finally gets back to a bowl
It’s been an uphill battle since SU’s last postseason trip in 2013. But with a healthy Dungey, the Orange do just enough to make a bowl game at 6-6 in 2018. The defense still gets scary at times. And the offense still fails to possess the level of firepower we’d like ALL the time. It’s enough, though. See you all at the Gasparilla Bowl.
9. The conference title streak ends for Orange men’s cross counry
SU’s won every ACC men’s cross country championship since joining the league in 2013, and they also won the final Big East title as a member there too. But with Justyn Knight graduating, there’s a real chance for a step back this fall. It’ll be temporary, of course. But still not at the championship level Coach Fox is used to.
10. SU announces exploratory committee into sponsoring new sport(s)
Syracuse hasn’t added a sport since women’s ice hockey, and with all of the new ACC revenue, there’s potentially room to grow the school’s collection of sports. We talk men’s hockey and baseball all the time. It’s more likely we see something like fencing or wrestling (both of which the ACC already sponsors), though.
What are you expecting for SU sports in 2018? And have some actual resolutions for the Orange (instead of just predictions)? Share those below too.