ACC Realignment What-If: 2010-11 Syracuse Basketball Season

Andy Lyons

Syracuse didn't make it to the ACC when the league expanded back in 2004; but what if the Orange had been added originally, instead of Virginia Tech?

Nearly every Syracuse Orange fan remembers the shenanigans of 2003 when the Orange, bags packed for the ACC, were replaced at the last minute by Virginia Tech, courtesy of then-Va. governor Mark Warner's insistence. The move would result in a decade-long run of success for the Hokies in their new home, while SU spent nearly 10 years struggling in the Big East.

But what if things had happened the other way? What if Jim Boeheim's complaints about the switch fell on deaf ears, and what if Warner's efforts to upgrade the Hokies were undone before he could extract them from the Big East? Would things have gone dramatically different for Syracuse in the ACC all this time?

With some help from sports simulation site WhatIfSports.com, we can take at least a speculative look at what might've been for Syracuse on a season-by-season basis. While these simulations won't build new recruiting classes or anything like that, we can take a look at where the Orange would've fallen overall, had they made the ACC switch earlier.

Please note that for our purposes here, SU's most lopsided non-conference losses each season have been dropped in favor of one or more in-conference game (depending on necessity). Additionally, each year will simply use Virginia Tech's in-conference slate, so as not to create a brand new scheduling matrix. SU will also compete in football's Coastal division (rather than the Atlantic division they've been placed in in real life), just as Virginia Tech did starting in their second ACC season (2005).

***

Non-conference record: 12-0 (NC State non-conference game removed here)

#4 Syracuse 76, Virginia 66

Rick Jackson and Brandon Triche combine for 36 points and the Orange put on a shooting clinic, hitting 51 percent of their shots (60 percent in the first half). Jackson also tacks on 17 (!!!) boards and five blocks, absolutely embarrassing Virginia down low. Once again, SU's off to a hot start, quickly climbing up the polls. (13-0) (1-0)

#4 Syracuse 59, Florida State 50

Syracuse scores 43 in the first half and looks to be en route to a runaway victory. But Florida State turns in an extremely dominant second half on the defensive end, holding the Orange to just 16 (on 24 percent shooting for SU) to make a game of it late. Still, the Carrier Dome crowd is treated to yet another victory from the defending National Champs. (14-0) (2-0)

#4 Syracuse 75, North Carolina 65

The Orange appeared locked in a tight one through the first half, heading to the locker room with a 36-35 lead down in Chapel Hill. This was before the Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph show got started, though. SU's stars caught fire in the second, and combined for 33 points and 22 rebounds on the contest. Beyond Harrison Barnes, UNC had no answer for Syracuse the entire game, shooting just 40 percent as a team. (15-0) (3-0)

#4 Syracuse 75, Wake Forest 58

This one was a demolition derby from the onset, with Syracuse outscoring the Demon Deacons 40-24 in the first. Four SU starters scored in double figures, with Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson leading the way once again, tallying 29 points and 19 rebounds between them. Tack on another methodical, workman-like victory at the Dome. (16-0) (4-0)

#3 Syracuse 91, Maryland 63

Fans in College Park were looking for a show. Unfortunately for them, Syracuse was the team that impressed everyone in attendance. The Orange scored a whopping 59 points in the second half while burying the hometown Terps, with every player on the roster not named either Fab Melo or Matt Tomaszewski scoring at least once. Kris Joseph led the way, however, with 23 points in just 24 minutes of play. (17-0) (5-0)

#2 Syracuse 65, Georgia Tech 59

Syracuse didn't look all that impressive against the Wreck, but it didn't much matter. Rick Jackson recorded his sixth consecutive double-double in ACC play, while SU benefited from Tech shooting just 32 percent from the floor. Jim Boeheim expressed displeasure with his team's lackadaisical second half, calling out Scoop Jardine as "lazy" in the postgame press conference. (18-0) (6-0)

#2 Syracuse 69, Miami 66

Plenty of tense moments near the end as Miami had possession down just three with 20 seconds remaining. But a big steal by Dion Waiters preserved the victory for Syracuse in front of a tense Sunday crowd at the Dome. The Orange's biggest issue (in a game full of them) was the lackluster three-point shooting. Despite going just 3-for-20 from beyond the arc as a team, SU's shooters just kept trying, and it nearly cost them in this one. (19-0) (7-0)

NC State 77, #2 Syracuse 70

After more than a week of offensive struggles and close calls, Syracuse finally suffers its first loss of the season. The Orange never led in this game, as NC State shot 59 percent from the floor. The mental lapses truly did catch up to SU, as 15 turnovers led to 25 points for the Wolfpack. (19-1) (7-1)

#2 Syracuse 80, Boston College 53

...And that's how you bounce back from a tough upset loss. Syracuse's second half is the type of offensive clinic their fans have been pining for, as they shoot 65 percent as a team en route to 47 points; turning a two-point halftime lead into a rout. Three SU players score in double figures, while no Eagle scores more than nine. (20-1) (8-1)

Georgia Tech 67, #3 Syracuse 65

A week removed from their last game, the Orange come crashing back down to Earth yet again -- their second upset loss in a span of 14 days. The Dome crowd finds themselves stunned by a nine-point Tech run to end the game, with Syracuse spending that same stretch turning it over four separate times, while missing two shots. (20-2) (8-2)

#9 Syracuse 88, Maryland 71

Syracuse scored 50 points in the first half, and simply never looked back, pulling the starters within the first few minutes of the second. Fab Melo (0-for-2 from the floor) is the only Orange player without a single point, while Kris Joseph manages 19 points in just 18 minutes. (21-2) (9-2)

Virginia 69, #9 Syracuse 56

This all seem familiar yet? Since their 19-0 start, the Orange are now just 2-3, with three enormous upset losses to unranked teams. Syracuse has actually yet to face a ranked ACC team all season, and the murmurs about whether or not they're a legitimate title threat are starting to turn to shouts. (21-3) (9-3)

#15 Syracuse 59, Wake Forest 57

Even the hapless Demon Deacons can test Syracuse now. A far cry from the hot start of a couple weeks back, the Orange are struggling in every facet of the game at this point -- and this frightening effort against Wake Forest is no different. Rick Jackson's double-double is a nice bright spot, but that's about it. (22-3) (10-3)

#1 Duke 72, #15 Syracuse 63

Sadly, no one's surprised when SU fails to challenge the nation's top-ranked team, as the Orange trail from the first basket and never get closer than two the rest of the way. Neither team shoots particularly well, but Scoop Jardine's 2-for14 line likely stands out most for this struggling Syracuse squad. (22-4) (10-4)

Boston College 82, #17 Syracuse 67

The embarrassment keeps on coming. Boston College puts up 52 points against the Orange AT HOME, and SU turns the ball over 17 times en route to what might be the worst loss of the year (thus far). Jim Boeheim tells the media his team is "a joke" after the game. When asked to elaborate, he tells them to go read a book instead of "Twitter-ing" all day. (22-5) (10-5)

#17 Syracuse 70, Clemson 61

Four Syracuse players score 13 or more points, and the Orange ride its most complete effort in weeks to a nerve-relieving victory. The win earns them the third seed in the ACC tournament, but the tension around the program is "palpable," as acknowledged by Scoop Jardine that evening to the Daily Orange. (23-5) (11-5)

ACC Tournament Quarterfinals: Syracuse 78, Georgia Tech 58

Syracuse starts out strong, scoring 47 points in the first half, and then simply coasts to victory over the Yellow Jackets. Scoop Jardine leads the Orange with 22 points (on 8-of-15 shooting) and four steals, while Rick Jackson records yet another double-double. (24-5) (11-5)

ACC Tournament Semifinals: Syracuse 87, Maryland 85 (OT)

Upstart Maryland wasn't even supposed to advance this far in the ACC Tournament, and yet, they held their own against the Orange -- until a buzzer-beater by Kris Joseph gave Syracuse an emotional victory in overtime. Joseph, Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine all scored 20 points apiece, and despite some defensive lapses, SU made stops when it mattered most and advance to the ACC Tournament finals. (25-5) (11-5)

ACC Tournament Championship: Duke 69, Syracuse 62

The offense vanishes for Syracuse once again, as they simply can't seem to get shots to fall in the second half. You'd think shooting 44.4-percent from the floor would be a good sign for this team, and yet, they simply lacked the energy and ability to keep things tight with Duke. Rick Jackson (12 points) was the only SU player to score in double figures in the disappointing (though expected) loss. (25-6) (11-5)

***

NCAA Tournament: Syracuse lands no. 3-seed, but gets sent out West (Anaheim) for potential rematch with Duke in the Regional Final

Round of 64: #3 Syracuse 71, #14 Bucknell 52

Bucknell over Syracuse was a trendy upset pick in the lead-up to this game, and yet this one was never really that close. The Orange led by 16 at the break, thanks to a strong three-point shooting effort (seven makes in the first 20 minutes), and then coasted to the finish with strong inside play by Rick Jackson, who put up 13 on the contest. (26-6) (11-5)

Round of 32: #6 Cincinnati 72, #3 Syracuse 62

One again, Syracuse's lack of big-game experience this year shows itself at the worst possible moment, and results in a loss to the Bearcats. The Orange were thoroughly outpaced by Cincinnati throughout this one, and they were simply unable to mentally get past a poor shooting start. After the game, Jim Boeheim asked reporters what they were complaining about; "this is what you said would happen anyway, isn't it?" (26-7) (11-5)

***

Difference conference, different regional, same result as the real 2010-11 season. As I was running through this simulation, I couldn't help but be amazed to see it course-correct around the 20-game mark just like real life, and send this Orange team reeling toward the finish. And the worst part is, the competition wasn't nearly as good in the ACC as it was in the Big East in 2010-11 -- yet SU still lost some head-scratchers to clearly inferior competition. Oh well. At least we have that 2010 National Championship to keep us warm (/dies).

Next Up: Doug Marrone's Syracuse football team tries to make it three straight bowl bids, and perhaps even challenge for the Coastal Division title during the 2011 season.

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