The Syracuse Orange are on the road on Wednesday night to face the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. While SU has a five-win advantage over the Deacs this season (12-2 vs. 7-6), there are still plenty of reasons to doubt the Orange pulling off the win -- most notably the fact that the game is on the road.
It’s not a Syracuse-specific problem to play poorly on the road. Home-court advantage has seemingly grown stronger by the year across the sport, and SU’s struggles have been caught up in that trend.
Since the start of the 2014-15 season, SU’s 10-23 on the road, with just two quality wins in that bunch (Notre Dame in 2014-15 and Duke in 2015-16). Since the 4-7 mark to start this four-year stretch, the Orange are just 6-16 — though they’re 1-0 this season after beating Georgetown in the year’s lone road game thus far.
That one win over the Hoyas, however, was hard-fought and pretty rough to watch for upwards of 20 minutes. And the two victories last season (in 10 tries) both needed heroic comebacks.
With the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee looking even more closely at true road wins over neutral site games now, it’s pretty critical to grab at least a few wins each season. Last year, the Orange’s lack of notable road (or neutral site) victories helped spell doom for their tourney hopes. In 2015-16, a win at Cameron Indoor is likely what put them over the top come selection time.
Looking at this year’s road slate, there are ample opportunities to not only pile up wins over lesser teams, but also knock off some superior opponents. A look at SU’s road foes:
- Georgetown (W)
- Wake Forest
- Florida State
- Georgia Tech
- Boston College
Should SU show themselves capable of playing even at a .500 level on the road not the case since 2013-14), then it likely includes at least one win over a tournament-level team. Even a 4-6 mark probably means a win over either Wake (longshot NCAA team) or Boston College (a little more potential there).
You can see where things go downhill quickly on this season, though, should the Orange fall to recent depths away from the Dome. Losses to teams like Pitt and Georgia Tech are completely unacceptable given where those programs are at. At the very least, SU should hit 3-7 on the road. But that might not be enough without an upset.
So SU tries to right the ship in road games starting Wednesday. If they beat Wake Forest, they’ll be 2-0 in away contests, something they haven’t done since starting 6-0 on the road in 2013-14. Like this one, that team also struggled to score at point, but had a fantastic defense. Let’s hope this Orange squad’s road effort starts to mimic that one as well -- especially with three of four on the road coming up.