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Syracuse men’s basketball: how the Orange’s non-conference schedule compares to last season

Comparing last season’s non-conference schedule with the one ahead.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 10 Georgetown at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The road ahead for the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team is still being paved, but as John Bovi often said, “Ohh, we’re halfway there!”

Following Thursday’s announcement of the yearly Syracuse-Georgetown game, the Orange secured their 11th and officially final non-conference game for the upcoming 2023-24 season. Obviously, we’re still missing the details for the ACC portion of Syracuse’s schedule, but for now, we’ve got something to work with.

New head coach Adrian Autry and his Syracuse team will make their season debut on November 6 versus New Hampshire. Between then and December 21, the Orange face an intriguing non-conference slate that includes three games at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, a neutral-site game versus Oregon, a home matchup versus LSU for the new ACC/SEC Challenge, and the aforementioned Georgetown game. Syracuse also landed home games versus Canisius, Colgate, Cornell and Niagara, as well as two exhibition matchups versus Daemen and College of St. Rose.

Last season, the Orange succumbed to a frustrating start partly because they could never build any legitimate momentum. Not counting the exhibition games, Syracuse finished 7-4 overall versus non-conference opponents. That included losses to Colgate (101st in NET), St. John’s (91st in NET) and Bryant (179th in NET), which helped to explain the Orange’s NET ranking of 121st overall. Not the best, right?

Bryant v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Syracuse did rebound from three-straight losses to St John’s, Bryant and Illinois (a 73-44 demolition) by winning five in a row and eight of their next 10 games. Still, the ceiling of last year’s team was established early: an improvement from the prior season, but not NCAA Tournament bound.

The Orange will soon face a similar road in terms of a bumpy road to begin the year. As James noted in his preview, Syracuse’s schedule balances both NCAA Tournament resume-boosting opportunities with a mix of (in theory) clearly beatable opponents.

Syracuse’s biggest test comes incredibly early with a potentially difficult, five-game stretch in mid-to-late November which includes Colgate (#12 seed in 2023 NCAA Tournament), LSU in the ACC/SEC Challenge and the dreaded gauntlet facing the Orange at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational (three games versus any of Gonzaga, Kansas, Marquette, Purdue, Tennessee, UCLA and... Chaminade. For context, the first six of those teams finished 12 or better in NET ranking last year).

Additionally, let’s also keep in mind the potential NCAA Tournament implications coming Syracuse’s way. There’s at least some expectation for Syracuse to be in the tournament conversation, especially with Judah Mintz back in the mix.

Wake Forest v Syracuse Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

At a bare minimum, Syracuse will face at least two tournament bid-worthy opponents; in a crazy but absolutely plausible scenario, it might have to deal with three top 10-15 AP poll programs in a row.

How new head coach Adrian Autry keeps the Orange’s morale afloat during this stretch will be something to keep an eye on. But, this team will also at least have a better shot to capitalize on what appears to be a promising non-conference schedule.

Take a look at the NET rankings for Syracuse’s 11 opponents this season in comparison to last season:

Syracuse men’s basketball non-conference schedule (2023 versus 2024)

2023 (NET ranking from last season) 2024 (NET ranking from last season)
2023 (NET ranking from last season) 2024 (NET ranking from last season)
Lehigh (272nd) New Hampshire (267th)
Colgate (101st) Canisius (261st)
Northeastern (309th) Colgate (101st)
Richmond (160th) LSU (153rd)
St. John's (91st) Oregon (45th)
Bryant (179th) Niagara (244th)
Illinois (36th) Cornell (128th)
Oakland (276th) Georgetown (240th)
Georgetown (240th)
Monmouth (351st)
Cornell (128th)
Note: outside of Chaninade, the other six teams in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational the 12-best NET ranking teams in the country, including five of the top 10 marks.

This is quite a gauntlet of the schedule once you (then) factor in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. Now, add in the additional context.

Opponents like LSU and Georgetown are entering this season completely revamped. LSU brought in one of the best transfer portal classes in the country this offseason, while Georgetown is turning the page on the dreaded Patrick Ewing era in favor of former Providence coach Ed Cooley. Those NET ranking metrics from last season will likely turn out better than worse. Syracuse also replaced its ill-fated game versus Illinois for Oregon in a neutral-site game this coming year.

The biggest punch in the gut for Syracuse last season was the lack of any true resume-boosting wins, outside of a home victory versus #23 NC State. The Orange finished 0-8 versus Quad 1 opponents as well as 2-12 versus Q1 and Q2 programs. Syracuse will at least get a lot of great bites at the apple early on before ACC play kicks off.

But, with Autry’s coaching unknown and tons of questions left needing answers on the court, can Syracuse overcome the non-conference slate enough to built the momentum it never really had last season? That remains to be seen.

In short, don’t underestimate this schedule. It will absolutely make or break the Orange’s outlook heading into the winter and spring.


Now it’s your turn: What are your thoughts on the Orange’s non-conference schedule? Which games will have the most implications for Syracuse’s upcoming season?