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The Blueprint: How Syracuse Can Make The NCAA Tournament

Can Jim Boeheim salvage the season and take his team to the NCAA Tournament? Here's the blueprint; no Jay-Z.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

When Jim Boeheim returned from his suspension he took over his Syracuse team that had gone 4-5 in his hiatus only to take on arguably the nation's best team -- North Carolina -- in his first game back. Syracuse played a great game against UNC, but still fell short which moved the team to 10-7 on the season. At that point the conversation had shifted to Syracuse not even being an NIT team, let alone making the NCAA Tournament.

The college basketball season is long -- plenty of opportunity still exists and teams have certainly pulled of more bizarre things with the odds against them. Syracuse doesn't have to move mountains here -- it might be more unlikely than likely, but making the NCAA Tournament isn't farfetched.

As of yesterday even before the Duke win, Syracuse was among Joe Lunardi's "Next Four Out." Plus, many of the perceived "bad losses" on the season aren't actually that bad. Let's take a look at how Syracuse can still go dancing in March starting with the remaining schedule:

Virginia 1/23

Syracuse now moves to play Virginia on Saturday. Like Duke, the Cavaliers have struggled of late losing three of their last four games and will play Clemson tonight. Although winning this game would be great, Syracuse can get by without posting a W in Charlottesville.

Notre Dame 1/28 Through Florida State 2/11

After the Virginia game Syracuse gets a five game stretch of very winnable games, all of which are at home spare the last. Although they just took down Duke in Cameron, Notre Dame has had a relatively underwhelming season -- the Duke victory was the team's first win over a ranked opponent. A home game against the Fighting Irish should be a win for Syracuse.

Georgia Tech is an average team at best while Virginia Tech has over-achieved this season. The Hokies have won some close games which is generally a positive sign but the team has struggled against teams like Wake Forest, NC State and Georgia Tech. I'm not willing to say Virginia Tech is a better team than Syracuse.

The last two games in that stretch against Florida State and Boston College should be wins for Syracuse. Although Florida State brought in a good recruiting class they're still young and Boston College is, well, Boston College.

If Syracuse can win-out in this five game stretch and split between Duke and Virginia that would put the Orange at 18-8 and 8-5 in the conference.

Louisville 2/17 Through Florida State 3/5

This marks the last five games of ACC play before heading down to play in the ACC Tournament. A team never wants to head into a conference tournament on the bubble, so these last five games become imperative.

Syracuse has three games against ranked opponents starting with Louisville, followed by Pittsburgh (again) and North Carolina after the NC State game. Syracuse has to win at least one of those games to ensure a quality win. The most winnable being the Pittsburgh game as Syracuse played them tough already on the road and is the only of the three ranked opponents SU plays at home.

Syracuse also needs to win at least one of either the NC State or Florida State game. NC State is at the bottom of the ACC but is still a dangerous team with Cat Barber and Florida State will be tough on the road but Syracuse is more than capable of winning at least one of those games.

If Syracuse can win at least two of the last five games that would put the Orange at 20-11 and 10-8 in one of the top three conferences in the nation.


This is a down year across the board in college basketball. This bodes well for Syracuse as that means there will be more opportunities for an at-large bid. Syracuse also ranks a respectable 50th in RPI and 31st in SOS. Couple that along with consideration from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee and Syracuse still has a chance to make the big dance. Said the Joe Castiglione of The NCAA,

"The availability of a student-athlete is a discussion that is held with greater frequency because of injuries, suspensions and academic or transfer eligibility, but we treat a coach who misses a portion of the season because of suspension or illness in the same manner."

20-11 and 10-8 in the ACC with the wins stated above would put Syracuse into the tournament regardless of what happens during the ACC Tournament. You can take that to the bank. Obviously you try to win every game but this is the blueprint to making the big dance. Easier said than done, but there's no reason to think Syracuse can't remain competitive in each contest and make a push for the tournament still.