The Orange (11-7, 1-4) is coming off their first conference win of the season, a 62-40 route of Boston College. SU didn't play particularly well against the Eagles, but it was a win nonetheless. This pivotal 3-game stretch could very well make-or-break their season.
"Well, it's tough. We knew the schedule was tough," SU head coach Jim Boeheim said after Wednesday's win. "There's nothing we can do about it. We just have to go play it."
Boeheim is referring to SU's Saturday-Monday road trip with games against Wake Forest (10-6, 1-3) and No. 9 Duke (14-3, 3-1). Five days after the Orange play the Blue Devils, they will travel to Charlottesville to face No. 13 Virginia (13-3, 2-2).
"Every game is tough. Those are certainly going to be tough," Boeheim continued. "We're not playing well enough now to accomplish what we want to get accomplished. Hopefully we can do that and get better, but right now we're not."
This will be Syracuse's first, and only, 3-game road trip of the season. SU did play three straight games in the Bahamas during the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, but those were considered neutral site games.
It's simple; the Orange simply cannot lose all three games. If they do, they'll fall to 11-10 (1-7), which will all but end their postseason hopes. Of the three games, Saturday seems to be the most winnable. The Demon Deacons have victories over Indiana, UCLA, LSU and North Carolina State - all solid wins. However, they are coming off a tough loss at home to Virginia Tech, 93-91. Wake Forest turns the ball over more than anyone in the ACC, which is something the Orange will need to take advantage of.
Monday's game against Duke will be as difficult of a road game the Orange will have all season. The Blue Devils did lose the other night to Clemson, which was only their third loss of the season. Grayson Allen is one of the best scorers in the country, and Brandon Ingram is one of the best freshman in the country. Monday's game could get ugly in a hurry if SU's offense doesn't show, which has happened a few times this year.
Next Saturday, SU will visit Virginia. The Cavaliers lost back-to-back ACC games to unranked opponents, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, before defeating No. 8 Miami, 66-58, earlier this week. Virginia is vulnerable, but they're still a top team in the conference. It won't be impossible, but a win against the Cavs, on the road, is unlikely. Senior Malcolm Brogdon is playing exceptionally well, averaging 17.0 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
If Syracuse can somehow steal a win at either Duke or Virginia, and finish the road trip 2-1, the NCAA Tournament talk wouldn't be as far-fetched as some may think. As I stated earlier, 0-3 ends your season, but 1-2 will keep the Orange on life-support.