Syracuse fans are weird, as if you didn't know. Supporters of the Orange tend to go through this odd psychological reconciliation wherein they expect their team to operate as a nuclear weapon, incincerating the enemy without mitigation, while also believing that their team is garbage compared to prior iterations and everything is just a millisecond away from falling apart. Someone seriously needs to conduct clinical trials of Syracuse lacrosse fans because the scientific research would yield the greatest finding ever: "They're spoiled sociopaths."
2013 may just be the perfect year to watch the mental anguish of Syracuse fans. We're not even out of December yet and Orange fans are already chemically imbalanced to the point where in one moment claims are made that if everything falls together the Orange could hoist hardware on Memorial Monday; in another moment, the face-off situation is still nightmare fuel, nobody knows what the midfield looks like, and other than Derek Maltz, the constitution of the attack is unresolved and please someone put a bullet in my skull. Fun times in the Salt City, folks.
All that madness will be on display this year in the Carrier Dome as Syracuse hosts a bunch of big time games under the teflon roof. The home schedule for the Orange isn't a cakewalk, and it should keep the talk radio business in Central New York ramped up to perfectly crazy levels. Let's tear this slate apart.
March 1: Virginia; March 16: Johns Hopkins; April 6: @ Princeton; April 10: Cornell; April 27: v. Notre Dame
It's nothing out of the ordinary for Syracuse to load its non-conference schedule up with national contenders, but this year -- a year in which the Orange will look to advance to its first Championship Weekend since 2009 -- creates some urgency around getting wins in those contests. Luckily, Syracuse will get three of its biggest tilts in the Carrier Dome, one of the most difficult venues for opposing teams to play due to the unique environment. The early March dates against the Cavaliers and Blue Jays are important, not only in terms of competitive reconnaissance but also in improving the Orange's overall profile for NCAA Tournament consideration should Syracuse not receive the Big East's automatic invitation to May. Hopkins will likely be a top five team when they head north, and depending on Virginia's development through February, the Cavaliers could be a top 10 team with all kinds of dangerous attributes. With those games occurring so early in the year, the Orange will need to resolve some of their questions at the onset of the season if they hope to grab some valuable victories.
The Princeton and Cornell games are difficult enough for Syracuse, but with those games coming only four days apart, the Orange won't have a lot of time to prepare and get healthy should things go sideways. The Big Red have recently shown themselves to be the class of Central New York over the last few seasons, and with all the local interest that will surround that rivalry game, emotions should run high and hot.
Then, as if Syracuse needed more problems on their schedule, the Orange will close the season -- just prior to the start of the Big East Tournament -- with a neutral site game against Notre Dame at MetLife Stadium. The league title could be on the line with that game, and with the Irish looking like a national title contender in 2013, all kinds of pressure will be on Syracuse to handle a tough situation to get itself ready for a potential late-spring run. It's a non-conference schedule littered with heavyweights and landmines, which is exactly what John Desko probably wants.
February 24: Army; March 9: v. St. John's; March 23: @ Villanova; April 20: @ Georgetown
This is where the Orange could get into some trouble next year. It's easy to get up for games against Hopkins and Cornell; it's much harder to focus on teams that have the potential to cause trouble but don't carry the history that the blue bloods do.
Army has become a thorn in Syracuse's side ever since the Black Knights walked into the Carrier Dome and dropped the Orange in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2010. Joe Alberici's club is talented in strong pockets this coming year, featuring two offensive assets -- Garrett Thul and John Glesener -- that could decimate Syracuse if given the opportunity. St. John's is coming off a huge season of development in 2012 and gave the Orange all they could handle a season ago in Queens. Villanova is retooling much of its roster after some heavy departures, but the offense -- lead by Jack Rice, Will Casertano, and Nick Doherty -- is good enough to keep them in games. And Georgetown, which was mired in misery over the last few seasons under Dave Urick, received a B-12 shot with the hiring of Kevin Warne and will feature a roster heavy on upperclass players.
These aren't the games that you get tickets to in January, but they may ultimately define Syracuse's season.