When the Syracuse Orange return to action on December 29 against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets they will have had eighteen days between games. Last year Syracuse came out of their pause and played four games between January 6 and 16, losing three (including a two-game sweep by the Pittsburgh Panthers). That Orange group went from 6-1 to 7-4 and suddenly NCAA Tournament hopes were looking bleak.
With this year’s squad sitting at 5-5 they will come out of their pause and face a similar four game stretch over a span of ten days. After hosting Georgia Tech and Virginia the Orange will travel to Miami and Wake Forest and they can’t afford a repeat of last year. Fans should be wary of what’s to come for a couple of reasons. One is that Syracuse was looking forward to getting some extended practice time after the Georgetown game. Buddy Boeheim shared yesterday that before the pause there were some good days of practice but those came with the Orange missing their starting forwards.
“Last week was really good, just getting two hours of practicing every day,’’ Boeheim said. “Other guys had to play more with Jimmy and Cole out. I thought it was a really good week. We needed to work on some stuff (and) polish some things up.”
Another concern comes from data published which looked at all college basketball teams who went through a pause last year. According to Evan Miya’s analysis teams suffered the biggest drop in the first two games back from the pause with expected performance about three points below average. This was the case for the twenty-seven teams who went on to make the NCAA Tournament last year and it’s easy to see that fatigue and rust after a long wait between games could play a role in efficiency.
We expect that Syracuse’s offense will need to carry them through ACC play so the Orange will need to try and buck this trend. Neither Georgia Tech or Virginia have been impressive this season which means that home games against them become games that Syracuse really needs to win. Hopefully the Orange will be able to get their full squad back at practice this week and they will be ready to go next week. If not the road back to the Tournament will become a lot trickier to navigate.