Which 2015-2016 Syracuse Orange team is the real 2015-2016 Syracuse Orange team?
Is it the one that beat multiple ranked teams en route to a Battle 4 Atlantis title?
Is it the one that lost to lowly St. John's and mediocre Georgetown in December?
Is it the one that beat Duke on the road and crushed BC & Wake easily?
These are the questions the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee might have to ask themselves when considering the Orange for the 2016 NCAA Tournament. While there are a lot of different factors that will be in play by the time March rolls around, if all else is equal, should the committee take into consideration the nine games that Jim Boeheim was not allowed to interact with his players or programs? Especially since those nine games appear to have been a time when a good team legitimately took a step backwards?
The special circumstances of Syracuse basketball this season are certainly on the mind of the committee already. Way back in December, an NCAA rep said the committee will view the suspension the same way that it assesses how a team does when a key player is out for a stretch of time. Committee chair Joe Castiglione has even said it will be a consideration.
But should it? Not that I'm looking for reasons for Syracuse not to make the NCAA Tournament, but is it fair to other schools if Syracuse receives some kind of special consideration due to violations handed down by the NCAA itself? If Syracuse makes it to the end of the season with, say, 12 losses, are we automatically a better 12-loss team than someone else just because a chunk of those loses came while Boeheim was gone? How do you decide the value of Boeheim's absence? Is it the different between a 9-seed and a 10-seed or is the difference between Last Four In and Last Four Out?
There's one way Syracuse can make this conversation moot and that's win most of their remaining games. It probably goes without saying that SU needs to get to 20 wins, which would require a 7-3 run to end the year. They could still make up a couple games with some ACC Tournament wins but those are going to be hard to come by this season. More likely, SU will want to go at least 8-2 to close out the year if they want to quiet concerns. A quick scan of the opponents left doesn't make that seem likely.
However, a strong finish of any kind bodes well for the Orange's chances in the eyes of the committee. They're already going to give SU a bit of a pass on December, but Syracuse has to make good on that by proving it's worth in February and March.