The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team will soon turn a page on program history when new head coach Adrian Autry and the Orange make their season debut versus New Hampshire on November 6.
Year one of the Autry Era will look to turn optimism into the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2020-2021 season.
With basketball season on the horizon, here are the most important games you need to know for the 2023-2024 season.
Marquee Game of the Year
It’s Clemson, and more specifically, it’s Joe Girard’s return to the 315 on February 10. Yes, there’s several decent options on the table, but there’s a lot more than narrative going in favor of the game versus the Tigers.
Clemson projects to be the 4th-best team in the ACC per a recent conference prediction from CBS Sports. The Duke’s, Miami’s and UNC’s of the world will be tough to beat whether home or away, but the Tigers represent the Orange’s best chance to get a legit resume-building win. Plus, when you look at the rest of the month of February, Clemson is the best team remaining outside of a lone home game versus the Tar Heels.
The Maui Jim Maui Invitational throws a wrench into this category — by far and away, that is the toughest part of the Orange’s schedule for this season. Syracuse’s first opponent in Hawaii, the Tennessee Volunteers, finished sixth overall in NET last year and every program with the exception of Chaminade finished 12th or higher in NET and tenth or higher in KenPom.
The Volunteers are the early frontrunners for this category, but it’s also hard to argue against playing Duke on the road. Duke is the early favorite to win the conference and is loaded with depth, athleticism and overall talent around superstar Kyle Filipowski. ESPN’s current bracketology projects the Blue Devils are a one seed heading into the start of the regular season. Pick your poison.
Toughest Stretch of Games
Again, the Maui Invitational will include Syracuse’s toughest opponents, but in the context of the full schedule, the Orange face a bitter winter that includes facing Pittsburgh twice, Duke and North Carolina on the road and Miami at home between December 30 and January 20. Per the preseason outlook of 247Sports, Autry and the Orange face the three-best ACC programs and four of the top six in all but one game during this stretch. Gulp.
Where will the Orange’s fate this season be determined?
As many Syracuse fans are beginning to understand, there’s a lot of unknowns with the state of this program that will need some answers. Schematically, how will the Orange adjust to their missteps from last year? Who can reliably replace the production left behind by Jesse Edwards and Joe Girard? Can Autry do enough to really transform the Orange after just one offseason?
As with anything, expect Autry and company to take it one game at a time. Ideally, Syracuse can find its groove early in the non-conference slate and, in a best-case scenario, at least steal one great win in Hawaii.
But after that is anyone’s guess — early road/neutral site games against Georgetown, Oregon and Virginia will give a small taste at what is actually the ceiling for this year’s team. If Syracuse can hold off that aforementioned ACC stretch in the early winter, there’s a lot of opportunities for the Orange to make up some ground heading into the ACC Tournament.
One of the dominant stories from last season was Syracuse’s shortcomings/struggles against Quadrant 1 opponents. The Orange will have plenty of chances to steal a game or two versus a quality opponent, whether ACC or non-ACC.
Looking at the entire schedule, there’s two fascinating questions worth figuring out over the course of the season: 1) how and where can the Orange generate some good momentum during this season and 2) can Syracuse overcome tough stretches with Maui and the start of conference play?
Now it’s your turn: what are your thoughts on the upcoming schedule for the Orange? Which game are you most excited for?