The Syracuse Orange, once looked at as a solid NCAA Tournament invite, are now sitting on the bubble again. It's their own fault, of course. And while SU can play itself off by way of winning a game or two, they may have to rely on other teams' respective wins and losses to cement their place in the field of 68.
That sounds terrible, obviously. But since this is the predicament we're in, might as well figure out who we're pulling for around the country as Championship Week begins in earnest.
Consider the below your official rooting guide if Syracuse can't get it done on their own, and needs some help to find itself an NCAA Tournament bid come Sunday. We haven't included conferences that have no impact on the Orange.
Who are we rooting for?: The Connecticut Huskies, begrudgingly.
Why?: The entire conference is on the bubble since SMU is ineligible for the postseason. So rooting for UConn actually helps us out in two ways. First, Syracuse beat them, so that improves our strength of schedule in the eyes of the Committee. Second, the Huskies winning the AAC means teams like Temple, Tulsa and Cincinnati haven't done so, which again, helps SU.
Who are we rooting for?: The Syracuse Orange. "Duh."
Why?: See above. A non-SU surprise team winning the ACC would also be problematic, so if not the Orange, you're rooting for the favorites (Virginia, North Carolina, Miami, Duke, Notre Dame).
Who are we rooting for?: The St. Bonaventure Bonnies.
Why?: The Bonnies are already in the field according to some, so while rooting for a fellow bubble team seems counter-intuitive, the benefit of picking up another resume win (SU beat St. Bonaventure earlier in the year) probably outweighs the potential risk at this point. Elsewhere in the A-10, Dayton's already firmly in the field and St. Joseph's is on the bubble as well. The Hawks losing early in the conference tournament could potentially knock them out. Same goes for VCU, who we're actively rooting against.
Why?: These teams are all assured bids already, so any of them winning the conference tournament does nothing to harm Syracuse. Providence is probably in as well, so in the big scheme, them winning at MSG probably won't hurt either. Where things get dicey is with the rest of the field. Georgetown and St. John's, who both possess wins over the Orange, are already out of the NCAA picture, so victories by either steal an at-large bid and that far outweighs any potential benefit for SU's strength of schedule. You're rooting against Creighton, DePaul, Marquette and especially Butler, who's hanging around the bubble themselves.
Who are we rooting for?: Any team that's already considered "in" the field. So that includes Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin. But mostly Wisconsin.
Why?: As is the case in other leagues, a team already "in" winning the league tournament doesn't steal an at-large bid. Also, we're probably rooting for Wisconsin most of all. No, Syracuse didn't beat the Badgers, but that loss has been trending up over the last couple months. A B1G championship for Wisconsin would be a boost for strength of schedule and maybe make the difference if SU needs help.
Who are we rooting for?: Anyone but Kansas State. Oklahoma State or TCU.
Why?: They're the only three Big 12 teams not bound for the NCAA Tournament already. For reasons explained multiple times above, we don't want non-tourney teams to leave that station by way of an auto-bid.
Who are we rooting for?: The Valparaiso Crusaders.
Why?: Valpo's one of a small collection of mid-majors this year to actually have a resume worth looking at for an at-large bid. They're currently in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament, so two more wins and they're in. If the Crusaders are knocked out in the semis, their NCAA hopes could very well be dead. A loss in the final could have them (and SU) sweating it out come Sunday.
Who are we rooting for?: The Monmouth Hawks.
Why?: Like Valpo, Monmouth has actually amassed a bit of a resume -- in fact, the Hawks probably have some of the best non-conference wins of any mid-major (USC, Notre Dame). No guarantees they'll make it if they fall to Iona tonight. But like Valpo, this is a scary team to have sitting across from you in the bubble conversation if the committee decides to favor mid-majors come selection time.
Who are we rooting for?: Any of the current tourney locks like Utah, California, Arizona or Oregon.
Why?: There are a lot of Pac-12 teams in the mix for a bid, and the last thing we need is one of those bubble teams like USC, Colorado or Oregon State looking better come Sunday. The Trojans and Buffaloes are likely in the best shape of those three. If the Beavers lose early in the conference tournament, they might be done depending on what other bubble teams like Syracuse do.
Who are we rooting for?: Texas A&M. Hard.
Why?: You can make a case for Kentucky too, but A&M winning the SEC has the most directly positive result for SU. The Orange beat the Aggies down in the Bahamas, and that win's the best one on their resume at current. It gets even better if you add an SEC Tournament championship to A&M's name too. You're rooting against the other 12 teams not named Texas A&M or Kentucky, but especially South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Florida and Alabama, who are all in bubble conversations to varying degrees.
Who are we rooting for?: Arkansas-Little Rock all the way!
Why?: I'm not certain that the Trojans have enough of a resume to get in as an at-large (best wins are vs. Tulsa and San Diego State, respectively), but let's just play it safe here. UALR is a good basketball team and the best one in the Sun Belt by far. If they come up short in the championship game, that creates more stress than we need. Just win the thing, guys.
Who are we rooting for?: The St. Mary's Gaels.
Why?: Because they're not Gonzaga, who is currently a bubble team. They're also not BYU or Pepperdine, who are not currently in the NCAA Tournament conversation. St. Mary's has a chance to grab an at-large bid without winning the conference outright, however. So to prevent bad things from happening, let's just go ahead and pull for them.
So there you go. While you're an Orange fan first and foremost, now you're a fan of the teams above too for the next week. Go TEAMS!