In Joe Lunardi's recent ESPN.com piece examining teams who assembled the strongest and weakest non-league schedules the past four years, one of the teams listed definitely stood out as a surprise.
That would be Syracuse, which checked in tied for sixth with Connecticut among schools from BCS conferences in non-conference schedule strength.
Considering the flack Jim Boeheim takes for his unwillingness to play early-season games outside the greater New York-area, it's definitely unexpected to see Syracuse listed among the likes of Michigan State, Tennessee or Arizona. The Orange have played only five non-conference games the past four years anywhere besides the Carrier Dome, Madison Square Garden or Atlantic City, N.J.
Why then is Syracuse's schedule strength so much greater than its critics claim?
Well, first of all, data used to measure strength of schedule treats preseason tournament games in Manhattan or Atlantic City as neutral court contests even though the Orange typically have a huge home-court advantage. But secondly, Syracuse does a better job than it's given credit for of scheduling a few marquee games each year and of making sure that the mid-major and low-major teams it plays at home aren't RPI killers.
Syracuse still hasn't released its full 2011-12 schedule, but the highlights are similar to previous years. The Orange will host Florida on Dec. 2 in a matchup of potential top 10 teams and they'll headline the Preseason NIT along with Stanford, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State.
Not an especially daunting list on paper. But perhaps by season's end it will once again be better than we think.