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Sciria: Syracuse women's basketball team hurt by bad timing

Quentin Hillsman

Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman (left) talks with Syracuse’s Alexis Peterson during a game earlier this season.

What's the old cliche, if they didn't have bad luck, they'd have no luck at all?

The Syracuse University women's basketball team is living proof of that. The Orange have had their best regular season in program history. Syracuse went to the ACC championship game and received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, again, its best ever.

The high seed means the Orange are rewarded with one — possibly two — home games for the first two rounds of the tournament. And when does the NCAA Tournament committee (with help from ESPN) have Syracuse playing?

Friday at 2:30 p.m. Right after the Syracuse men's game. A weekday afternoon when the majority of local people are working or in school.

The Orange women deserved a better fate for their first game, which should be an easy win over Army. Most people will take an extended lunch to watch the men play Dayton.

Just think if the women's game was at night?

The Syracuse women averaged about 750 fans a game this past season, which is sad. They're clearly a top 25 team playing in a major conference in an area of hundreds of thousands of people. They've been overshadowed by the men's program, obviously, because the men's program has had decades of success.

Even Syracuse football, which hasn't been a top 25 team for about 15 years, draws more than 20,000 fans.

The women have come a long way under coach Quentin Hillsman to become a top 25 team, but it takes an even longer time to change habits of what local sports fans want to go out and pay to watch.

Look at the Syracuse Chiefs, their attendance is only starting to show signs of improving after years of decline. Same thing with the Auburn Doubledays. Attendance numbers don't usually improve dramatically in one year.

And that's what makes Friday's game frustrating. A Friday night game might have attracted the casual fan who has never seen a women's game in person. The exposure at night would draw more local TV viewers.

Unless there's a crazy upset, the Syracuse women will be playing on Sunday, when they should get a better opportunity to draw more fans.

Of course, with the women's luck, the Syracuse men could also be playing on Sunday at the same time. An Orange win over Dayton isn't a gimme (see 2014). So by Sunday, the Orange women could be the only game in town.

A likely game against No. 5 seed Florida should be a good match-up and test to see if No. 4 Syracuse is truly a good team.

A long run in the tournament would help a lot, too. The Orange aren't in the same region with powerful UConn or Notre Dame. With some skill and luck, Syracuse could be in the women's Final Four. That might be the jump-start to change the image of the Syracuse women's program from "who cares" to "wow, I can hardly wait for the next game."

Sciria, The Citizen's assistant news editor, can be reached at or on Twitter @csciria


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