On Tuesday, the ACC released the conference schedule for all 15 men’s basketball teams — a list that obviously includes the Syracuse Orange. So now that we know the dates AND opponents for those matchups, we thought it would be good to rank those games.
These are ranked by importance and quality of the matchups, so it’s certainly subjective. Rather than try to rank all games 1-20, the games are tiered out into smaller groups.
Tier 1: The HUGE Games
at North Carolina, Florida State, at Virginia, at Duke, North Carolina
These are the games that have typically decided whether a bubble team makes the NCAA Tournament or not. All four of these squads are top-25 teams heading into the season and all have an ability to win the league — and maybe even contend for a top seed in March Madness. Having three of these on the road (at UNC, at UVa, at Duke) is tough after only traveling to visit one of those teams (the Hoos) in 2019-20. But these five games also present some big opportunities to secure an NCAA trip. If you take care of business elsewhere, as few as one of these could do the trick.
UNC at home for the finale could be the biggest game of the year. If the Heels are as good as advertised (top 15 or so), then that could make or break the whole season.
Tier 2: The Big Games
Clemson, Miami, at Clemson, Louisville, at Louisville
You could make the case that Louisville’s in the tier above, but not everyone’s sold on the Cards being a top-25ish squad this year (I happen to be, FWIW). To the point made above about “taking care of business elsewhere,” this is the start of that elsewhere. If Syracuse can win at least three of these — especially if one or more comes on the road — that will reduce the need to collect as many huge wins in tier 1.
You’ll notice three of these games are in the back half of the slate, so paired with a couple tier 1 games in the later days of the schedule, the resume basically gets decided in late February to March.
Tier 3: Toss-Ups
Notre Dame, at Georgia Tech, NC State, at NC State, Virginia Tech
Some of these matchups are more “toss-ups” than others, as Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech could be reasonably good teams in the same range of the conference standings as Syracuse. NC State’s also pretty questionable, but could play their way into the top half of the ACC if things break right. You don’t have to win ALL of these, but the fewer games you win in the tiers above, the more crucial these become.
Oddly, SU’s actually struggled against most of these squads lately: 2-3 vs. Virginia Tech, 2-3 vs. Georgia Tech, 1-3 vs. NC State and 2-3 vs. Notre Dame all since 2017. So nothing’s guaranteed as we’re all in the same general range (seventh through 12th).
Tier 4: Conference Dregs
at Boston College, at Wake Forest, at Pitt, Pitt, Boston College
And then there’s the bottom of the league. SU’s played pretty well against all of these teams in recent years, yet based on the difficulties described above, it’s even more important to net five wins in these five tries. Having three of the five on the road is not ideal, but at least without much in the way of fan attendance, home court advantage is reduced a bit.
Looking through these tiers, here’s how SU may net out against each grouping:
- Tier 1: 1-4
- Tier 2: 3-2
- Tier 3: 3-2
- Tier 4: 5-0
To some extent, that’s an optimistic view, but the Orange could still finish 12-8 against this schedule. Provided the wins appear in the right places, that should have them right in the thick of the NCAA Tournament at-large conversation once more. A lot rides on that tier 1 list, however. Without a win there, it means more victories are required elsewhere. And a win over a team like Duke or UNC on the road is arguably worth at least two wins over teams like NC State or Georgia Tech.
What do you think here? Agree with the tiers? What about the win-loss thoughts? Share your own take on the schedule below.