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Projecting Syracuse basketball’s 2018-19 non-conference schedule

Who’s already on there, and what’s left to add?

NCAA Basketball: Cornell at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We haven’t really talked about scheduling much lately. And given that it’s one of our favorite past times, it seemed worthwhile to give it a glance while we discuss all of the very early projections about the 2018-19 Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season.

The conference opponents, which should prove as difficult as always, have not yet been released. Last time around, it was made public in July, so expect more of the same for 2018-19. As a reminder, this is the final year of the league’s 18-game schedule. The ACC will move to a 20-game conference slate starting in 2019-20, creating two fewer non-conference games and two more repeat ACC opponents each year.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Georgetown Art Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

But as for the non-conference foes, here’s what we know so far:

That gives us a likely eight already, with five left to go after that. Addressing each question mark one by one:

Who will our Big Ten opponent be?

If I’m guessing right now, we’re headed to East Lansing, Mich. to face NCAA Tournament second round foe Michigan State.

Syracuse is 2-3 in this event so far, having won agaisnt Maryland last year, and hosting Indiana in 2013. In the middle, they lost a home-and-home with Wisconsin, and a road game at Michigan. Matching up teams that just faced each other in the NCAA Tournament adds television intrigue and they’ve done it before (see: 2013 SU vs. IU). Would fully expect this to happen again. If not, we’re potentially on the road against Ohio State/Nebraska/Maryland.

Another premier opponent?

One of Syracuse’s biggest assets in 2017-18 was a strong strength of schedule, which guided the Orange to the final at-large berth in the NCAAs. Hopefully we’re not on the bubble again come next spring. But it would be advantageous in any case to get a quality game on the books similar to the one we had against Kansas in Miami last December.

One potential foe worth considering is Washington, though admittedly, Mike Hopkins’s club isn’t really considered to be elite going into this coming season. It’s also not very advantageous for either Jim Boeheim or Hopkins to play one another, since they both know each others’ tendencies. So put this in the “maybe” pile, and only on a neutral court.

Assuming Big Ten teams are out with two (Iowa, “Challenge” foe) already on the schedule, we’re left with Big East, SEC and Big 12 teams unless a Pac-12 squad decides to make the trek. Personally, wouldn’t mind Arizona right now, but if we’re limiting ourselves to Big East/SEC/Big 12 schools, here’s who I’d want to play (in order):

  • Villanova
  • West Virginia
  • Kentucky
  • Florida
  • Xavier

That’s not the whole list. However, it’s a short selection of the teams with higher expectations in those leagues that wouldn’t hurt our SOS even if we lost. There’s some history with a few too, which adds some extra intrigue. Put the game in Philadelphia or Miami and call it the “Random Opponent Classic.” Done.

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

And the other four?

Honestly, I’d be cool with facing Buffalo and St. Bonaventure again this year, but I see why we may not want to since SU likely pays quite a bit for those home games against quality teams.

You can probably toss (former assistant) Rob Murphy’s Eastern Michigan club on there again, and I’m happy to play any combination of in-state MAAC schools like Iona, Canisius, Niagara, Siena, Manhattan or Marist.

So a hypothetical non-conference schedule looks something like this:

That... looks like a pretty good slate, and a nice balance of foes that should give us a strong SOS to pair with the difficult ACC schedule. The ACC projects to be pretty great once again in 2018-19, so if you have a tough non-conference SOS, taking some lumps is at least made a bit easier with regard to your resume.

Hate this schedule? Love it? Think we face too many quality teams (Oregon, Villanova, Buffalo, MSU) before ACC starts? Share your own projected 13-game non-conference schedule below.