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Building a Syracuse men’s basketball schedule from scratch

What if we didn’t have conference scheduling obligations anymore?

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

Whenever we mention basketball schedules, one thing that remains obvious is that a lot of Syracuse Orange fans want to face more Big East teams. That’s not going to happen in reality, since we already have more than 20 games accounted for each season. Still, it’s a fun exercise to see which opponents Orange fans would want to build out a schedule with.

But... what if it could? Perhaps if faced with pandemic-related scheduling challenges this winter, all college basketball teams need to reevaluate exactly how a 31-game slate is constructed. Some conferences are pretty self-contained and wouldn’t have to adjust. For Syracuse, though, in a league where most teams are a long drive/shorter plane ride away, maybe there’s something gained by adjusting who they’re facing and where.

So let’s construct a 31-game schedule from scratch. The only caveats are that we’d want to get some sort of neutral site event in there, and we’d want a decent number of home games (would say 18-20). Some of this can be based on historic opponents. Others, just on teams we’d want to face or other schools closeby. Ultimately, this is a fan-centric exercise, and it doesn’t really need to “work.” Just as long as it’s enjoyable to put together.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Category 1: Historic rivals we want to face (four games)

Without conference obligations, a home-and-home series with Georgetown seems beneficial for everyone. And let’s add neutral site games against UConn (Madison Square Garden) and Villanova (Wells Fargo Center) too.

Category 2: Historic rivals we could probably face (seven games)

Pitt and Boston College can get home-and-homes, I suppose. West Virginia can get a game too, though we’d like to see them at the Dome instead. Colgate and Cornell are on there as home games. They’re not “rivals” per se, but traditional foes.

Category 3: Any other ACC teams? (four games)

Just take Duke, Louisville, North Carolina and Virginia. Two home and two away works.

Category 4: Four more major conference teams (four games)

Similar to the ACC selections, you wind up with two of these on the road and two at home. Personally, would pick Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland and Michigan... but feel free to pick your own group in there instead.

Category 5: Neutral site tournament (three games)

Maybe at MSG, maybe Brooklyn... would assume we’re not going to places like Hawaii or the Bahamas in this setup. Also assuming that the UConn game’s not included. If it is, then you’re probably adding two lesser local squads (Fordham/LIU/Columbia) and a team like Temple, Richmond or Davidson.

Category 6: The rest (nine games)

So there’s only about 17 or 18 power conference (plus Big East) games accounted for above. However, most of them are against top-tier squads. So we can construct the rest of the schedule out of low major bodybags and/or New York schools.

Some or all of those selections could include: Army, Bucknell, Buffalo, Canisius, Iona, Manhattan, Niagara, St. Bonaventure, St. Francis

So to review, here’s the home/road/neutral split:

Home games: Army, Boston College, Bucknell, Buffalo, Canisius, Colgate, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Iona, Kansas, Manhattan, Michigan, Niagara, Pitt, St. Bonaventure, St. Francis, Virginia, West Virginia

Neutral games: Fordham, LIU, Temple, UConn, Villanova

Road games: Boston College, Georgetown, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, North Carolina, Pitt

Is this an exciting slate? Weird home schedule? Are the highlights mostly the road games?

Honestly curious what sort of combinations everyone comes up with if you’re given a blank canvas to add 31 games, with no other rules really attached.