As we said last week, most of Iowa's non-conference basketball schedule was set -- the only remaining game of note to be announced was Iowa's opponent in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Today that mystery got solved: bring on the 'Cuse.
Iowa will play Syracuse on the road on Tuesday, December 3rd (time/TV TBA). Syracuse went 20-14 overall last year and 10-8 in the ACC, good for a tie for 6th place. Like Iowa, they made the NCAA Tournament, but unlike Iowa, they went one-and-done in the Big Dance, losing 78-69 to Baylor in the first round to end their season.
Syracuse is coached by Jim Boeheim, as they've been for decades, and things haven't changed much with the Orange during his tenure. They're still going to play a stifling 2-3 zone, they're still going to play at a slow tempo (257th in the country last year), and they're still going to play a methodical half-court offense. Last year's Syracuse team was fairly efficient offensively (59th nationally) despite not actually being very good at, uh, shooting the ball: 229th in eFG%, 213th in 2FG%, 229th in 3FG%. But they were pretty good at attacking the glass (105th in offensive rebound rate) and at getting to the free throw line (72nd in free throw rate).
Next year's Syracuse team ought to look rather different than last year's squad, though, as they're returning just one full-time starter from the past season, 6'6" forward Elijah Hughes. Hughes was second on the team in scoring (13.7 ppg) and third in rebounding (4.3 rpg), while averaging 2.0 stocks (steals + blocks) per game as well. He shot 42% from the floor and 36.9% from 3-point range.
Of course, Iowa-Syracuse also figures to be a battle of father and son combos. Iowa will feature two of Fran McCaffery's sons next season, sophomore point guard Connor McCaffery and freshman forward Patrick McCaffery, while Syracuse counters with Buddy Boeheim, one of Jim Boeheim's sons. The younger Boeheim played in 32 games last season, averaging 8.9 ppg on 38.1% shooting (35.3% from 3-point range) in 17.1 minutes of action. Let the inter-generational challenge begin!
Syracuse is a new opponent for Iowa in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge; they've never played one another in this event before (though this will only be the 7th year Syracuse has been in the event, too). Syracuse is 3-3 overall in the event, winning their last two games (upsetting Ohio State 72-62 on the road last year and narrowly defeating Maryland 72-70 in 2017). Iowa's own tortured history in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge is well-known; they're 6-12 overall (worst of any team in the event), though they have won four of their last six games in the Challenge (really!) and did win last year (a narrow 69-68 win over Pitt in Iowa City). Iowa also doesn't have much history with Syracuse overall:
Iowa & Syracuse will be meeting for the fourth time.— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) June 6, 2019
The #Hawkeyes are 2-1 against the Orange, with all three previous games contested on neutral courts. Iowa was victorious in Buffalo in 1957 and Philadelphia in 1980 (NCAA Elite Eight). Syracuse won in NYC in 2014.
That 2014 game was part of the 2K Classic and was narrowly won (66-63) by the Orange. This will be Iowa's first trip to the Carrier Dome and, in fact, the first game between the two teams that wasn't on a neutral site. (They could have played one another at last year's 2K Classic, too, but Syracuse got upset by UConn.)
The full ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchups are listed up above; color me shocked at another Duke-Michigan State matchup. And if the college basketball gods are just, they won't allow that Pitt-Rutgers game to be televised, lest it contaminate unwary eyes. Thoughts on Iowa drawing the Orange in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge? Excited? Bored? Let us know.