Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse team has looked like the most complete in the country at points in its dominant 7-0 start this season. But tough road tests at Arkansas and against ranked San Diego State notwithstanding, their generally lackluster non-conference schedule (ranked #69 nationally thus far, according to StatSheet) exposes the Orange to the perennial “paper tiger” treatment their fans have come to expect. In his press conference after a shellacking of Long Beach State on Tuesday, Jim Boeheim argued unequivocally that scheduling difficult opponents in the first month of the season does not help a team prepare for the NCAA Tournament:
Boeheim makes the dubious suggestion that teams that suffer losses in November and December “aren’t even playing when it comes to the tournament.” That claim might raise eyebrows from slow starters like Brad Stevens, whose consecutive national runner-up squads each lost four games before New Year’s Eve. Boeheim stressed that his non-conference slate is designed exclusively to prepare for the Big East schedule, and that “if you’re not going to be ready in those 18 [Big East] games, then you have no chance to be good [in March].” While the league’s rigor is well documented, it can also present a liability when teams encounter unfamiliar styles in March: In each of the past two NCAA Tournaments, teams finishing in the top three of the Big East standings were all upset by lower seeds in the Elite Eight or prior.