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With Georgetown date set, where does rest of Syracuse schedule land?

The Hoyas return to the Carrier Dome on December 8 this year.

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

There isn’t much going on with Syracuse Orange football scheduling lately, so I’ve had to take up a new hobby... SU men’s basketball, which decides things year-to-year, seems like a potential fit, no?

Long derided for “soft” scheduling and never leaving the state of New York whether it was actually the case or not, Syracuse has turned over a new leaf since Kip Wellman took over as director of basketball operations. Wellman, who’s revealed pieces of his scheduling methodology, has managed to strike a balance between the ACC and non-conference slates, allowing for the Orange to pick up wins beyond league play but also game the RPI and SOS number a bit when it comes time for NCAA Tournament evaluations.

See last year, most importantly, when a 20-13 squad rode a top-20 strength of schedule to a surprising berth in March Madness, and a subsequent run to the Sweet 16.

This year, he’s at it once again, with four spots still left to fill.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Syracuse Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

We bring this up because the date for SU’s annual clash with the Georgetown Hoyas now has a date: Saturday, December 8, as reported by Thankfully, this year’s matchup is before kids leave for break. That removes the final confirmed opponent without a set date, and leaves the Orange’s non-conference schedule looking like this:

Back in April, we made some projections on this front, but it’s worth giving it another go now that a lot more is confirmed. Knowing that Wellman is likely trying to get at least one more team in the 50-100 RPI range in there for good measure, and that Colgate is almost definitely on here as well, we dive in...

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

To start, which dates are we looking at?

If I had to guess:

  • Tuesday, November 20
  • Tuesday, December 4
  • Friday, December 21
  • Friday, December 28

This leaves Thanksgiving (November 22) clear, and also gives the team some time to rest during that week when fans and students are unlikely to show up in large numbers anyway. The space between December 8 and December 15 is reserved for finals. The last two are just guesses, but by holding the games on Friday, you allow players to go home if they can and also get a better turnout versus the weekends when a lot of fans could be out of town.

Okay, now who’s filling these spots?

I’d slot in Colgate on November 20, just to break up the potential Oregon-Ohio State back-to-back. Eastern Michigan’s also another likely addition, and wouldn’t doubt them being a December 28 game (Rob Murphy’s family is still in the CNY area).

That leaves two December dates, against uncertain foes.

St. Bonaventure is a possibility, though since the Bonnies lose a lot this offseason, it’s worth doubting whether or not they can be a tournament-caliber team this year. For one of these two opponents, that higher RPI is probably critical — especially if for some reason, Iowa manages to upset Oregon at MSG, leading to Syracuse lining up against a lesser opponent (according to the numbers — though if the “national power” Hawkeyes do it, perhaps they’re better than we think).

NCAA Basketball: Rider at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

One team worth considering could be the Rider Broncs, from Lawrence Township, N.J. The MAAC program was 22-10 last year with a No. 63 RPI. They fell to Oregon in the NIT, but also had a young team so could be just as good or even better than they were last year. The Broncs’ (you guys are missing a letter there...) are willing to go on the road against power teams too. Without risking scheduling an upset, this could be a good fit for the December 4 date.

If we assume the Bonnies are going to be a lesser squad than last year, you could probably slot them into the other date (December 20), potentially getting the same sort of inter-family crossover we saw last year close to the holidays. Other potential options include opponents in the 51-100 range like Iona, Marshall, Bucknell or Bradley if we’d rather aim for some more formidable opponents. But if Syracuse thinks ODU and Buffalo (already on the schedule) fit that bill, the Orange could end up dipping a bit lower on the RPI scale instead.

Whether they make that choice or not, you’ll see at least one more opponent in that 101-200 RPI range added. Being close-by is always a plus from a travel cost perspective, since Syracuse pays less for the game. So if not the Bonnies, UPenn, Wagner, Hofstra, Canisius and Albany (among others) are potential teams to slot in instead.

Any teams you’d like to play among (or instead of the above)? Share your own ideal last four opponents below.