Syracuse basketball, in Maui opener, draws preseason top-15 Tennessee

Syracuse basketball (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Right before the Thanksgiving holiday, Syracuse basketball and another Orange-clad squad will do battle in an opening-round game of the 2023 Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

Per multiple press releases, the ‘Cuse will face Tennessee in this loaded, eight-team event, which runs from November 20 to November 22 at the Lahaina Civic Center in Maui, Hawaii.

According to SU Athletics, Syracuse basketball will square off against the Volunteers on Monday, Nov. 20, beginning at 2:30 pm EST. ESPN2 will broadcast this juicy encounter. On the Orange’s side of the bracket is a match-up of Purdue versus Gonzaga.

On the other side of the bracket, per the event’s organizers, Kansas will play the host school, Chaminade, while UCLA battles Marquette. The ‘Cuse will compete in three contests at the 2023 Maui Jim Maui Invitational, including a game against either Purdue or Gonzaga.

The most important element here, for me personally, is that I’m a proud SU alumnus and a passionate Syracuse basketball fan. Conversely, my 7-year-old son, Kethan, who primarily lives in Nashville, Tenn., is a huge fan of the Volunteers. Lots of smack-talking is in our future!

Syracuse basketball will play that other “Orange” squad, Tennessee, in Maui.

In 2022-23, when the ‘Cuse went 17-15 overall, Tennessee was one of the better groups in the Southeastern Conference. The Vols sported a 25-11 overall mark a campaign ago, reaching the Sweet 16 of the 2023 NCAA Tournament and finishing at No. 16 in the final Coaches top-25 poll.

Looking ahead to 2023-24, Tennessee is again forecast to be one of the top teams in the SEC. Multiple super early preseason projections for the coming term place the Volunteers in the top 10 to the top 15 across the country.

One interesting storyline in this game is that Tennessee’s 2023-24 roster includes former long-time Syracuse basketball recruit Joseph Estrella, a 2023 four-star center. The 6-foot-11 Estrella, out of the Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., took an official visit to the Hill but ultimately picked the Vols.

In their short all-time series together, the ‘Cuse and Tennessee are tied at 3-3. Most recently, in Knoxville, Tenn., in January of 2002, the Volunteers squeaked by Syracuse basketball, 66-62.

This will be the fourth appearance for the Orange at the Maui Invitational, and the ‘Cuse has won this tournament every single time that it has played in it (1990, 1998 and 2013).

To capture another Maui crown in 2023, Syracuse basketball will have to navigate a brutal field that includes multiple highly ranked squads from a stanza ago, as well as numerous teams that are highly placed in preseason top-25 ratings ahead of 2023-24.

After it suits up versus Tennessee, the ‘Cuse will get either Purdue or Gonzaga, which are both powerhouse programs. Zach Edey, the reigning national player of the year, is a star center for the Boilermakers.

The Bulldogs, led by terrific head coach Mark Few, are always among the nation’s elite. From a recruiting perspective, Gonzaga recently landed a commitment from 2023 four-star small forward Marcus Adams Jr., who transferred from Kansas to the Bulldogs and was recruited by Syracuse basketball coaches earlier this year.

I’m pumped to see the ‘Cuse play the Volunteers in a battle of the Orange. Syracuse basketball will also face another SEC team, LSU, as part of the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge. The ‘Cuse will host the Tigers at the JMA Wireless Dome on Tuesday, Nov. 28, another tough test in a challenging 11-game non-conference docket for first-year head coach Adrian Autry in 2023-24.

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