Syracuse Basketball: Ideal options for Orange in ACC-Big Ten Challenge

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge will reportedly move forward for Syracuse basketball, and there are a handful of teams we hope are considered for the Orange.

Syracuse basketball is expected to participate in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, and CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein is reporting that the event’s plan is for games to get held on Dec. 8 and 9.

After NCAA officials decided to push back the start date of the 2020-21 campaign by about two weeks, from Nov. 10 to Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, Orange head coach Jim Boeheim said that the team’s schedule had to get completely redone.

Given safety protocols, travel restrictions and other logistical challenges brought on by the pandemic, it wouldn’t have surprised me at all if the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge didn’t occur in 2020-21. NCAA officials have also reduced by four, from 31 to 27, the maximum amount of contests that squads can play.

Therefore, Rothstein’s tweet about the ACC-Big Ten Challenge is encouraging. He also said via his Twitter page that the Atlantic Coast Conference has two windows to hold conference clashes this December, and they are Dec. 15-16 and Dec. 29-30.

League officials plan to have Syracuse basketball and its ACC peers suit up for two conference affairs each in December. A term ago, Virginia crushed the ‘Cuse at the Carrier Dome in November, while a month later, the Orange smoked Georgia Tech on the road.

Getting back to the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, there are a lot of factors that go into setting those match-ups, particularly during the pandemic, whether it’s travel logistics, which teams played at home or on the road in the last event, and which squads have previously faced off with one another.

Since joining the ACC in 2013-14, Syracuse basketball is 3-4 in this event, defeating Indiana, Maryland and Ohio State, and falling to Michigan, Wisconsin twice and Iowa.

In an optimal situation, I’ve pinpointed three Big Ten Conference crews that are most intriguing for the Orange to compete against. Up first is Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are located in New Jersey, which makes traveling more feasible for either Rutgers or the ‘Cuse.

Plus, these teams used to play one another in the Big East Conference. Finally, pre-season prognostications suggest that the Scarlet Knights could prove one of the premier groups in the Big Ten during 2020-21.

Illinois is also receiving a huge amount of pre-season praise both in the Big Ten and nationally. Syracuse basketball junior wing Alan Griffin transferred from Illinois to the Orange a few months back, so a duel with the Fighting Illini is intriguing.

Last but not least, Michigan State is always an enticing alternative. The Spartans are perennially a Big Ten heavyweight and Final Four contender. In the 2018 NCAA Tournament, No. 11 seed Syracuse upset No. 3 seed Michigan State in the round of 32, before the ‘Cuse would get bounced in the Sweet 16 by No. 2 seed Duke.