Syracuse Basketball: Biggest Threats to an Undefeated 2013-14 Regular Season
The fans in Conte Forum could smell the upset brewing.
With about 10 minutes left to go Monday night, Boston College had Syracuse on the ropes, leading 51-46. Old Mo Mentum was squarely in BC's corner.
Then, Syracuse landed a haymaker in the form of a 16-0 run over the next five minutes, and before you knew it, the Eagles' knees were wobbling. Jerami Grant's ridiculous dunk put Boston College on the mat for the three-count.
Monday's clash in Chestnut Hill was as big of a scare as the Orange (17-0, 4-0 ACC) have had. It's unreasonable to expect a team in a power conference to run the table heading into tournament time. Syracuse will more than likely have a few losses by March.
But which games are most likely to trip the Orange up? Will a conference powerhouse knock them off? Or will a trap game sneak up and give Syracuse a run for its money? Read on to discover the five games that are most likely to spoil Syracuse's undefeated streak.
Jan. 18 vs. Pittsburgh
As most coaches will likely tell you, the toughest test is the one coming up next.
Such is the case for Syracuse, as Pittsburgh (16-1, 4-0 ACC) visits the Carrier Dome on Saturday evening. As old Big East foes, Syracuse and Pitt stand atop the ACC with undefeated conference records. Therefore, this one will leave the winner alone at the head of the class.
Granted, Pitt hasn't played the toughest of schedules so far. The Panthers' strength of schedule ranks 104th in the country. But Ken Pomeroy has Pittsburgh as the sixth-highest team in the nation, so the Panthers will be ready to challenge Syracuse.
And Jamie Dixon is familiar with facing (and beating) Syracuse. In the last 10 games, dating back to the 2005-06 season, Dixon and Pitt are 7-3 against the Orange. Pitt is led by experienced players in Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson, so they will be comfortable executing against Syracuse's zone.
Jan. 25 at Miami
Fans and players alike will have revenge on their minds at the U.
Syracuse barely squeaked by Miami in the ACC opener, winning 49-44. Miami's matchup zone defense had Syracuse befuddled for most of the game. The Orange were able to pull out the win despite shooting 36.2 percent from the floor and only getting seven baskets in the second half.
With the home fans behind them for the rematch, the Hurricanes will have as good of a shot as anyone to knock off the Orange. Miami has confidence that it can hang with Syracuse after nearly winning in the Dome. With the added determination to knock off a highly ranked conference foe, this one will likely go down to the wire.
Feb. 3 vs. Notre Dame
Let's call this one the emotional letdown special.
To put this in perspective, let's look at some dates:
February 1, Syracuse vs. Duke at the Carrier Dome: Syracuse is expected to break its own on-campus attendance record by packing in over 36,000 fans for this game. Fans in Syracuse have been buzzing about this game since Syracuse moved to the ACC.
February 2, the day after the most highly anticipated game in recent memory for Syracuse: Oh, there's also a pretty popular series of commercials on this day that seemingly the entire country obsesses over every year. Then they play a football game or something between commercials.
February 3, Syracuse vs. Notre Dame: This will be another ESPN night game.
As another former Big East member, Notre Dame is familiar with Syracuse and playing in the Dome, so the Irish won't be intimidated at all. Notre Dame also has wins against Duke and Indiana on its resume, and it played Iowa (16th in coaches poll) close in December.
If Syracuse experiences any sort of emotional hangover from the Duke game or the copious amounts of taco dip during the Commercial Bowl, Notre Dame could easily come in and steal one.
Feb. 12 at Pittsburgh
If the Panthers don't get it done in Syracuse, they will have another shot on their home floor a few weeks later.
You can rest assured the Oakland Zoo will be fired up for this one. Syracuse hasn't won at the Petersen Events Center since the 2003-04 season, so the crowd will be riled up to make sure that trend continues. If Syracuse rolls into town still undefeated, the fans will be beside themselves looking for the upset.
No matter what, it will be quite the atmosphere at the Pete as these two teams who look like the ACC front-runners meet up. But there's one other venue at which Syracuse has even less experience...
Feb. 22 at Duke
With Duke continuing to slide down the rankings, this game may not be as monumental as it once could have been. But then again, it could still end up being a battle for conference supremacy.
Either way, Cameron Indoor Stadium remains one of the toughest road venues in college basketball. It will be a new experience for every Syracuse player to have the Cameron Crazies right on top of them on the sidelines.
Not surprisingly, the Blue Devils historically play pretty well with the Crazies behind them. Duke's all-time record at Cameron Indoor, per the university's athletics page, is 771-150. So, yeah, you could say the Blue Devils enjoy a nice home-court advantage.
Whatever the narrative ends up being around this game, Duke will surely be ready to show it is still the standard by which all other ACC teams measure themselves.
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