In case you were unaware, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team had the ACC portion of its 2019-20 scheduled unveiled last week on the ACC Network, to which we had some initial thoughts. Prior to last week we had known the non-conference schedule and even the ACC opponents, but hadn’t had official dates locked in.
As a reminder, the league is going to 20 conference games this season and the Orange will open against Virginia at home and it will tie in a December road game to Georgia Tech.
With that — as we often do around these parts — we went ahead and ranked the best road trips on the docket. It should be noted that these rankings are completely arbitrary and that you are likely to vehemently disagree with all of them immediately.
Given that I’m incredibly lazy and stare at numbers all day, I won’t even be rolling out a logical ranking system like our good friend TexanMark does for the football road trips. Kudos to that guy.
But the rankings below will be loosely based on the quality of the trip as well as opponent, balanced with the likelihood of a win. The opponent’s arena will also be taken into account as well as fun stuff to do before or after the game. Ease of trip, day of the week and weather are also considered.
Oh, and the road trips will assume that you’re traveling from Syracuse. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
No. 1: Saturday, January 11 at Virginia
This is sure to tickle the fancy of our friends at STL. The first Saturday road game of ACC play will be in Charlottesville against Virginia in what has become, dare I say, a rivalry of sorts.
Virginia is top 25 good and Tony Bennett’s defense will be solid in 2019-20, but I’m not sure the Cavaliers will be able to score the ball. Everyone wants to talk about how good Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and DeAndre Hunter were, but who the heck is going to set screens now that Jack Salt is gone? Anyway, the Orange might not be favorited here, but have a decent shot at a road win for the second matchup of the season against UVa.
Charlottesville is a fun city, or so I’m told, and JPJ seats about 15,000 people. The trip is just a seven hour drive from Syracuse. If you’re flying you’ll have to take a connecting flight.
No. 2: Saturday, December 14 at Georgetown
Syracuse vs. Georgetown. What more do you want? As has been well documented around here, the rivalry has its best days behind it, but both squads will be vying for an NCAA Tournament berth in 2020. The winner will give its non-conference numbers a boost, which could be crucial come Selection Sunday.
Patrick Ewing has his best team at Georgetown in his third season, but has yet to beat Syracuse (as a head coach). Capital One Arena seats 20,000 people in what is sure to be an electric, sold-out non-conference game with a key win up for grabs.
There’s no shortage of things to do while in D.C. and there are plenty of Syracuse bars to head to pre/post-game — Penn Quarter is a good spot. A 6-hour drive from Syracuse isn’t terrible and a direct flight gets you into D.C. in less than 90 minutes.
No. 3: November 27 & 29, NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays
This would be a more desirable event had Thanksgiving not been sandwiched in the middle and the one-day hiatus between games. Alas, for those with family in NYC or for Syracuse alumns in the city, this should be a worthwhile pair of games.
The Orange return to Brooklyn to play against some good-but-not-great competition at Barclays. The first game will be against Oklahoma State while the Orange will play either Ole Miss or Penn State on the day after Thanksgiving.
With seating capacity just under 18,000, Barclays has been a great environment for ACC Tournament games, but Syracuse’s last non-conference game in Brooklyn (against South Carolina) left much to be desired.
Outside of basketball, New York offers plenty of tourism options for folks out of town (and it’s a great trip for kids). For those not bringing the kids, be sure to check out East End, a Syracuse bar located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
If traveling from Syracuse, a 5-hour drive will get you into the city. Flights usually run cheap for $100 or so and take no longer than 45 minutes in the air. As driving in NYC can be difficult, the bus from Syracuse to Manhattan isn’t a bad cost-saving option.
No. 4: Wednesday, February 19 at Louisville
The only two things holding this game back are the mid-week tip and the idea that Louisville is going to be really, really good. The Wednesday night tip will make this trip challenging for most, but the Cardinals have its best team since Rick Pitino was ousted and will be a legitimate Final Four and ACC contender this season.
Interestingly, Syracuse has won its last two games against Louisville as underdogs. A third straight win as a ‘dog could make the trek worthwhile.
The KFC Yum! Center seats over 22,000 and is one of the more impressive basketball facilities in the country.
The drive from Syracuse is roughly 10 hours and a flight would require a layover, adding to the trip difficulty.
No. 5: Saturday, March 7 at Miami
A chance to get out of the cold and into some nice weather after a long winter? What’s not to Lykes?
Syracuse will be exiting the dome a little earlier this season due to renovations and could be in need of a road win here at Miami to right itself for the NCAA Tournament. Miami figures to be a middle of the pack ACC team, like Syracuse, so there could be some jockeying for position in the ACC standings in the final game of the regular season too. The Orange have a solid shot at getting a win.
Watsco is an intimate arena with seating capacity under 8,000, but it’s a nice environment for a basketball game without a bad seat in the house.
There’s plenty to do in Miami, including some white sand beaches, although Coral Gables is a 15 minute drive from downtown so some driving or Uber/Lyft might be required. This game might rank higher if the drive were more accessible, but Allegiant does offer a non-stop flight to Fort Lauderdale out of Syracuse (not daily, so be sure to research flights ahead of time).
No. 6: Wednesday, February 26 at Pittsburgh
Jeff Capel has reinvigorated the Pittsburgh basketball program, which will be improved from a season ago. Syracuse has had Pitt’s number of late and the Orange swept the series 3-0 last year.
The Wednesday night tip is tough, but The Pete is a fun basketball environment (when healthy) and has one of the better student sections in the country. The Zoo wraps around both baselines and spans across the entire sideline opposite the team benches. Just don’t read the dirt sheet.
Pittsburgh is an underrated city with a good beer scene (not IC Light) and a ton of museums. While you can’t expect the weather to be much more balmy than Syracuse in late February, you’ll get a good bang for your buck in the Steel City.
Pittsburgh is just over a 5 hour drive from Syracuse. There aren’t any direct flights out of Syracuse though.
No. 7: Saturday, February 15 at Florida State
Syracuse will take more trips to Florida this season than North Carolina, which just seems odd.
Florida State should be somewhere between the fifth and eighth best team in the ACC, so Syracuse will have an opportunity to pick up a big quadrant one road win just one day removed from Valentine’s Day. The Tuck seats over 11,000.
The difficulty of getting to this game is what sets it back. Much like the Miami, the drive is hike. It’s over 18 hours by car from Syracuse and there are no direct flights. This game might not be worth it for those living in Syracuse, but alumni closer in geographic proximity to Tallahassee might find it worthwhile.
What about you though? What road games will you be getting out to this season? Any we left off that you think should be included? Hope to see some of you on the road this season.
Also of note: Tobacco Road will be coming to Syracuse this season as both Duke and North Carolina are scheduled for Saturday games, so perhaps there’s hope of College Gameday returning to the
Carrier Dome in 2020.
It’s hard to believe that Syracuse will avoid playing a regular season game in the state of North Carolina this year. It’s also hard to believe that the ACC Tournament will be held in Greensboro.