The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team is tied for first in the ACC at 4-1, and as fans, we’re certainly more optimistic about the rest of this season than we were just a couple weeks ago. Part of that positivity is fueled by the road upset over Duke. Still, winning four of five in a league like this is never an easy feat.
While I don’t want to be a buzzkill, previous seasons have shown that the first five games rarely tell us much about how things are going to pan out for SU.
For reference, here’s the Orange’s first five years of ACC play, with W-L in first five games compared to the final season result:
- 2013-14: 5-0; 28-6 (14-4) — lost to Dayton in second round of NCAAs
- 2014-15: 4-1; 18-13 (9-9) — postseason ban
- 2015-16: 1-4; 23-14 (9-9) — lost to North Carolina in Final Four
- 2016-17: 3-2; 19-15 (10-8) — lost to Ole Miss in second round of NIT
- 2017-18: 1-4; 23-14 (8-10) — lost to Duke in Sweet 16
As you’ll notice, Syracuse’s best starts have had mixed results. SU started the 2013-14 campaign with 25 straight wins and 12 straight in the ACC, only to fall apart down the stretch. The 2014-15 squad started hot in league play once again, then faded and exercised a self-imposed postseason ban anyway.
The two surprise NCAA Tournament runs started the worst, somehow. SU started both of those seasons 1-4 in league play, yet fought their way back over time while picking up big wins away from the Carrier Dome.
For as much as this year’s team has resembled the squads that started hot in terms of record, they do already have a better win at that point than any of those did — last Monday night over Duke. Additionally, they’ve played well away from home, which is actually something they have in common with those teams that started slow.
The 2015-16 team’s run through the Battle 4 Atlantis (UConn, Texas A&M) was key that year, along a road win over Duke. Last year, SU beat Georgetown, Louisville and Miami on the road. In 2018-19, the Orange already have road wins over Ohio State, Notre Dame and Duke with several more opportunities to earn more quality Ws away from the Dome. That’s always important, but especially so this year with the team also suffering a few less-than-ideal losses at neutral sites, plus the NCAA Tournament committee’s emphasis on true road games.
Keep all of this in mind when Syracuse starts its three-game road trip this coming weekend. Though wins at BC and Pitt may not move the needle a ton, an upset opportunity against Virginia Tech very well could. SU also has road dates with NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Clemson this year. Beyond the Deacs, a win in any of those last four would make a nice (positive) impact on the resume.
Did I just jinx us? Is five games too small of a sample size to really glean anything at all? (probably) Tell me why you think this doesn’t matter in the comments below.