Scheduling And Backup Point Guard Notes
While last season’s games against Georgetown and the surprisingly deep run Syracuse made through the Big East Tournament drew the curtain on the Orange’s time in the league, part of me still didn’t feel like the Orange were headed to the ACC. It just hadn’t hit me, that was until Monday afternoon, when the conference released its basketball schedule. The dates aren’t set, but the opponents are, so it’s still a nice opportunity for some discussion, especially if you happen to still be on edge about C.J. Fair’s future.
If you’re a local fan (or if you aren’t but have the means to make a trip or two to campus), you’re probably pretty happy with how the schedule shakes out. Duke and Miami, in addition to Pittsburgh and Boston College, will make trips to the Carrier Dome as home-and-home partners. On top of that, SU will host North Carolina, NC State and Notre Dame, plus Clemson and Georgia Tech in its first ACC season. On the road, SU will face the four home-and-home partners in addition to Maryland, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Wake Forest.
While the Orange will make trips to some of the tougher environments in the league, it’s hard to overemphasize the benefit of facing the top-shelf teams like Duke and North Carolina at home. The Orange are facing some significant movement within their roster, replacing no fewer than three starters and adding five freshmen (more on that later) as well as a transfer in Mike Gbinije. It’s a small break, but in a league that eschews the double round-robin format due to the big membership, any home game against a high-level opponent should be relished, especially as players adjust and hopefully thrive in new roles.
The road schedule, on the other hand, is slightly more balanced. The Orange will make their first ever trip to Cameron Indoor Colosseum, which figures to be as strange as it will be exciting, plus stops in College Park, Pittsburgh and Maryland, as far as tough road venues go. Without getting too ahead of myself, Miami will have a very different look after winning the league in surprising fashion next season, so I have to stop just short of including them among the more challenging road opponents.
While you can’t do this in practice, if you renamed SU’s home slate “Group A” and the road slate “Group B” and scheduled all the games on a neutral court, I’d say that in that vacuum, “Group A” would be the tougher set of opponents. Yes, that’s a worthless exercise, but it demonstrates that at this early stage in the offseason, I’m happy with how the slate shook out. We’ll be able to discuss the schedule in greater depth once the dates come out and we know the whole sequence, but as it is, I’m insanely excited despite these games being eight months away.
On another note, some transfer news came out later on Monday that could involve Syracuse as the offseason whirls on. Marshall point guard DeAndre Kane announced his intention to graduate and pursue a fifth year of eligibility next season at a different program. If the process sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same route that led Greg Paulus to play football for the Orange in 2009. Though Tyler Ennis is as firmly entrenched as SU’s starting point guard as an incoming freshman can be, there’s little depth behind him at the position, and that might be putting it lightly. While I don’t view the transfer landscape as the “circus” that many writers believe it to be, my philosophy has always been that if you think there’s someone out there that can help you next season, I think there’s an obligation to explore the possibility.
Kane is physical at 6’4 and 195 pounds, and while he wasn’t an efficient scorer in Huntington (he’s a career 41.4% shooter from the field with a 27.5% mark from distance and has declined in free throw proficiency each season), he played a huge role in the Thundering Herd’s offense as a distributor last season, averaging seven assists per game – good for ninth in the country – and scoring 15.1 points per contest. Considering his talent and the lack of point guard depth behind Ennis, it would make a lot of sense for the Orange to pursue Kane as a backup floor general. Kane would likely have to accept a reduced role, which could be a big factor after playing a whopping 37 minutes per game last season. On the other hand, if he’s up for it, he could see time for a major conference team and provide some stability for a contender.