As Sean is very good at reminding us all, regardless of the sport, there’s no need to panic. After the Syracuse Orange suffered yet another crippling loss -- their third in four games -- on Monday night, Twitter was a difficult place to find perspective. And when you look at the remaining non-conference schedule, it’s easy to see why. SU hasn’t done itself any favors thus far.
At 5-3 with three losses away from the Carrier Dome, Syracuse’s chances at padding the non-conference resume are virtually gone. Their only three quality non-ACC opponents, Wisconsin, South Carolina and UConn (sort of, on the last one) have all beaten them. The last five games before conference play offer little to help out the strength of schedule. Out of Boston University, Georgetown, Eastern Michigan, St. John’s and Cornell, only the Hoyas can really move the needle in the right direction.
This is in stark contrast to last year, when the Orange’s non-conference slate (and the wins against it) were among the primary reasons they made the NCAA Tournament at all. Victories over UConn, Texas A&M and St. Bonaventure (less so on the last one) were enough to convince the committee SU was a better team than the one that went 4-5 under Mike Hopkins. That Syracuse team lost a couple non-home games too (to Georgetown and St. John’s). But the neutral site wins over the Huskies and Aggies outweighed them.
For the 2016-17 campaign, they’ll need to rely completely on the ACC schedule now. That same ACC schedule that features as many as 12 other potential NCAA Tournament teams.
And therein lies the rub. The schedule is still littered with opportunities to pick up marquee wins on the road. Syracuse visits three of the nation’s current top 25 teams (North Carolina, Notre Dame and Louisville), and hosts Duke, Virginia and the other end of the home-and-home with the Cards. Win two or three of those, and you’ll probably in, relegating these non-conference losses to the recesses of Orange fans’ minds.
But that’s the thing. You still have to win them. And every opportunity for a major win is also an opportunity for a loss. You absorb too many of the latter, and there go your NCAA Tournament odds.
Last night and today will probably be filled with national pundits declaring this season dead in the water for ‘Cuse, using it to prop up a delayed narrative about last year’s “fluke” run. That’s fine. Those hot takes get retweets and shares and pageviews. But for now, Syracuse’s chances of returning to March Madness are still doing fine. They just need to take advantage of the rest of the opportunities put in front of them over the next few months.
If they fail to, THEN we’ll talk gloom and doom. But not before. We’re fine for now, after all.