All the terror and anguish and negativity tossed around about the Syracuse Orange's chances to make the 2016 NCAA Tournament ended up being for naught. The Orange earned themselves a 10-seed in the Midwest region. Syracuse avoids the play-in game, though not Dayton, as they'll face the Flyers in the opening round. You probably remember that SU's 2014 season ended against the Flyers in a brutal, offense-deprived game that put an unfortunate cap on a season we all remembered fondly to that point (sort of).
Of course, the tension was cut by the first-ever (to my knowledge) leak of the NCAA Tournament bracket in advance. With CBS running a two-hour show, it seemed like the process was open to some sort of information to come out early. And so it was. The full bracket was making the rounds before the second region was even revealed, and as each subsequent set of teams matched the leak, Orange fans rejoiced. No matter how much the committee did or didn't consider Jim Boeheim's absence, SU was rewarded for some high-quality wins. Those ultimately made the difference when comparing the team's resume versus the likes of their bubble brethren.
We did it. It feels weird for a school like Syracuse to celebrate the fact that we just "made it" to the NCAAs as some sort of victory. But given how the last 24 months have gone for the Orange program, it's almost refreshing to see us happy about a modest outcome like this one.
So how did this happen? We'll probably hear a lot more from the NCAA Tournament committee as the night and week wears on. But if you look, it's easy to guess: If you're in a major conference (P5, plus AAC, A-10), you stand a good chance of making it with a decent resume. If you've proven yourself repeatedly (Wichita State), you stand a good chance to get in.
Admittedly, I was a little worried when Vanderbilt and Temple -- two teams that (to Syracuse fans) have clearly inferior resumes, respectively -- locked up bids in the early part of the selection show. Seeing teams like Michigan and Tulsa invited either panicked or reassured you, depending on whether you believed in those squads or not.
In any case, Syracuse making it was a product of its body of work (wins over Texas A&M, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Duke). It was not hurt too much by a bad loss to St. John's. It was assisted by being in a major conference and not possessing a strength of schedule above 150 like (fellow major conference team) South Carolina, St. Mary's, St. Bonaventure and more on the bubble did.
While we, as fans, can celebrate for now, Syracuse (the team) clearly has more work to do. The Orange have some demons to exorcise against Dayton (we'll get to that), some doubters to prove wrong, and a coach to prove right. The hard part is making it into the field every year. What happens next is part-luck, part-matchups and part-desire. SU's last test of will and desire against Pitt fell just short. Now they get a chance to prove they belong and maybe even win a game or two while they're there.
We'll see everybody (in spirit) in St. Louis on Friday.