The Syracuse Orange continue to fill up their schedule with non-conference opponents, but one foe that they have yet to announce is a team from the Big Ten. The tenth annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge will take place in December, with matchups expected to be unveiled later this month. Since Syracuse hosted Indiana last year, this season’s game will probably be on the road, though there’s no guarantee since some teams play at home two years in a row to swap out opponents. Mike Waters from Syracuse.com did a breakdown of likely opponents, but these are the matchups that I think make sense for SU:
This contest is long overdue as the two schools faced off only once, all the way back in 1965. While Syracuse and Northwestern battle it out on the court, students from Newhouse and Medill - two of the nation’s best journalism schools - would also fight on the sidelines to provide the best coverage of the game. Throw an alum from each in the broadcast booth for the national telecast and you’re good to go. This was a big deal in 2012 for football and I expect it to be the same now for hoops. It also helps that the Wildcats fared about the same as the Orange last year, going 15-16.
These two teams faced each other last season in a triple-overtime thriller, so why not run it back and schedule a round two? I know this isn’t exactly a favorable matchup, with the Hoosiers on preseason Top-25 charts, but I do think the Orange need at least one challenging non-conference game to keep them on their toes and get ready for the always-difficult ACC lineup. Plus their one big weakness was shooting 3s, which works out great for the ‘Cuse since they couldn’t guard the perimeter at all last year. SU is 6-1 against Indiana all-time, with their only loss being the teams’ inaugural matchup in 1987.
The Hawkeyes are another challenging opponent for the Orange. They’re coming off a ranked season but lost some of their top talent from last year. The teams played in the Dome in 2019 so a trip to the
field court of dreams is in order. Not only does this check off the box for one challenging non-conference opponent, but it’s also more likely than an Indiana rematch.
If SU’s goal is to ease in the freshman as much as possible, then this is their best bet. The Cornhuskers were dead last in the Big Ten last year and are the closest thing to a gimme game the Big Ten will present this year. They’re also pursuing Associate HC Adrian Autry’s son, a 3-star SG named Trey which would add one interesting angle to this pairing.
Two other Big Ten teams who were home last year could also make sense as Syracuse opponents, if they end up with another home game.
Both schools have historically good basketball programs that are coming off unexpected losing seasons - their firsts in a long time. The Terps are conveniently located near the Baltimore/D.C. metro area, a huge recruiting pipeline across multiple SU sports. And these two schools have some playoff history, having faced each other in both the NIT and NCAA tournament twice. You could also go back to the journalism angle and sub in Merrill for Medill. The Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt reunion?
The Nittany Lions are one of SU’s most common foes, a tradition that quickly died out once the Orange joined the Big East. If they’re serious about rekindling the rivalry, as football seems to indicate, then do it in more than one sport. They did face each other at the Barclays Center in 2019, but that was for the NIT season tip-off. Syracuse last played in Happy Valley in 1982.
So what do you think? Should the Orange face one of these teams, or another Big Ten program? Let us know in the comments.