Are you ready for the Richmond Spiders?
Well, if you are a fan of the Syracuse Orange basketball team, think of this as a first round game in the NCAAs.
A tough first round game. And there is no let up after that. Syracuse plays seven games in 16 days.
And by the way, the opponents include Richmond, who have a strong nucleus coming back from last year, including A-10 rookie of the year Kevin Andrews.
Then Syracuse plays Oakland University. Have you seen Oakland's schedule? They will play anyone anywhere, including Oregon, Michigan, Iowa and Michigan State.
And then comes the ridiculous part of the SU schedule. The Cuse play Florida, either Kansas or Washington and then Virginia, all in one week!
Then there is Colgate—hey, don't laugh, the 'Gate always plays Syracuse well, and then Ivy League champs Cornell come to the Dome. I think all seven of these teams are potential NCAA teams this year.
After Syracuse's 34 point victory against LeMoyne College on Monday night, Jim Boeheim said during the post-game news conference that this will be the test of all tests.
Any longtime Syracuse fan knows this is the toughest non-conference schedule that Jimmy B. has ever put together. But he knows his team. When he doesn't believe in his team, he lays off and schedules cup cakes. He's not laying off this year. That is a good sign.
And we haven't even mentioned that Syracuse plays Memphis, in Memphis on Dec. 20.
"We just probably have the toughest schedule of anybody in the country the next few games," Boeheim said. "We're just going to have to work our way through it. We'll find out early this year what we're going to work on."
So what will be the keys this year to getting 20+ wins and making it back to the NCAA? Here are my keys:
- Physical: I think that Boeheim has not been playing Paul Harris and Kristof Ongenaet because he knows there are going to be his rebounding and physical players down the stretch. He wants them well rested for battle.
- Flynn's health. I cringe every time Jonny Flynn goes to the floor in a hard foul or selling out a move to the basket. Hopefully, the team's No. 1 leader stays healthy. Fewer minutes with the addition of Rautins and Devendorf should help a lot.
- Freshmen. Either Kris Joseph or Mookie Jones need to have a breakout year. My bet is on Joseph. He's a natural.
- Shooting. Syracuse must improve its three-point percentage and foul shooting.
It's going to be a great two weeks. Think of it as March Madness in November.