When it was announced that Syracuse was joining the ACC, I was immediately excited. Having grown up with a number of front-running Carolina and Duke fans, I couldn’t wait for the Orange to storm into the conference and make the blue bloods on Tobacco Road rue the day they invited Jim Boeheim and company to the ACC basketball party.
When the conference schedule was released, there was much hand wringing among Orange bloggers I know about how Swofford and his cronies were going to try to screw the newcomers. Sure, they had to be happy a top-tier program like Syracuse was coming into the fold. But the ACC has also lived for decades on the myth that it’s a deep basketball conference, when in reality its been the ‘Heels and the Dookies running things for the better part of the last two decades. Surely they would want the yankees to be put firmly in their place during the first outing.
I’ll admit that when I first saw Syracuse’s path through its inaugural ACC season, I wasn’t crapping myself. Home and home series with Boston College and Miami didn’t seem daunting (little did we know). Series with Duke and Pittsburgh would be tougher tasks, but the Orange faced both in the Carrier Dome first, which eased the burden somewhat. And only one date with UNC, in the Dome at that. There was no way to know that the Tarheels would be the mercurial mess that they are this season, so having to play them only once at home seemed like a blessing.
I’ll also admit that I failed to closely examine the season ending gauntlet that the Orange will face, starting with this Saturday’s rematch with Duke at Cameron Indoor. Four of Syracuse’s last five games are on the road. Two of those are against the other teams in the top three of the ACC standings (Duke and Virginia).
Of course, no one has a crystal ball. Most people expected the Duke, Syracuse and Virginia to be good. But I don’t think anyone expected the Orange to be 25-1 when they played Duke at Cameron. I don’t think anyone expected the Orange and Cavaliers to be deadlocked for the ACC regular season title with two weeks left in the season. But, man, it seems like the powers that be in the ACC had it out for the Orange when they laid out the schedule. It started out relatively easy; a lot of home games against largely bottom third teams, plenty of time between games, for the most part. It’s almost as if they wanted to lull Syracuse to sleep before hitting them hard.
So, what’s Syracuse to do? In the words of the late Al Davis, “Just win, baby.” Despite what is unquestionably a bad loss to BC, Syracuse is still one of the tops teams in the country. They can beat every team left on the schedule. They still control their own destiny when it comes to the ACC regular season title. Duke’s loss to UNC on Thursday night leaves the Devils with four ACC Ls and a relatively comfy 2.5 game cushion separating Syracuse (2nd ACC, .5 games behind UVA) from Duke and the rest of the pack. Even if the Orange were to falter down in Durham this weekend, they’d still hold sole possession of 2nd place in the league with a date against the leader still upcoming. Win them all, and the ACC belongs to Syracuse in its first time out.
It’s a tough task, but one the Orange can fulfill. They can beat any team, any time, anywhere. Sometimes you just have to beat the guys in the league office too.
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Chris Daughtrey is the creator and author of Bleeding Orange. He is a contributor at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician and at Atlantic Coast Confidential. You can connect with him on Twitter @OrangeBlood 44 or search #OrangeBlood.