The Syracuse Orange (22-4, 10-3 Big East) dropped from No. 21 to 22 in this week's AP Top 25, released Monday. SU fell two spots in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Orange moved to No. 20 from the previous position at No. 18.
SU went 1-1 since the last polls were released. Syracuse defeated Rutgers 58-45 on Tuesday night. On Saturday, the USF Bulls upset the Orange in Florida, 68-66. The Bulls are 19-7 and received 17 votes in the Coaches Poll so it is certainly not a "bad loss" for the Orange.
Syracuse is projected to be a six seed in ESPN.com Charlie Creme's most recent edition of "Bracketology." Barring a dramatic collapse, Syracuse is a safe bet to reach the NCAA Tournament. Still, a win against the Irish would be a major résumé booster.
Kayla Alexander will get one last chance to beat the Irish. The Orange has lost the last 13 games in the series, dating back to 2001-02 and haven't won at Notre Dame, ever.
"It’s always going to be fun to play against one of the top teams in the nation so we’re all definitely looking forward to that," Alexander said.
Even with ten wins in the Big East, SU is only rated No. 37 in the RPI ranking. Additionally, the team's strength of schedule is all the way down at No. 155, the worst of anyone in the top 40 RPI.
The Orange lost to third-ranked UConn back on Jan. 19, and have yet to play the two other ranked teams in the Big East (Notre Dame and Louisville). The Orange lost to Villanova (18-8) so SU's only victory versus a Big East team with 16+ wins came against DePaul.
Even so, coach Quentin Hillsman said he doesn't view playing Notre Dame as Syracuse's chance at getting its first signature win of the season.
"I think that we’ve had some big, big wins already this year," Hillsman said. "I don’t think that you can look at our conference and look at one win being a signature win. Every win in the conference is very important."
Syracuse will have the challenge of trying to stop Skylar Diggins, one of the best players in the country. Diggins is averaging 16.2 points and close to 6 assists per game this season.
"I don’t think you can game plan for one person with that team," Hillsman said. "You have to prepare for that system and what they do."
The Orange can't only focus on Diggins because the Irish have three other players who are averaging at least 12 ppg. So how do you game plan for Notre Dame?
"You just do what you do," Hillsman said. "We’ve been successful in playing our style of basketball so we’re not going to change much."