Back on Monday, we put together a rooting guide for Syracuse Orange basketball fans to pay attention to during Championship Week. Those were simpler, more optimistic times, course, since it seems that all that article did was curse the teams SU needed to win...
Since Monday morning, Valparaiso, Monmouth and St. Mary's have all lost their respective conference tournaments. And that's after Wichita State -- another mid-major bubble team -- did the same before them.
Syracuse, already hanging around the back end of bracket projections, now potentially gets pushed out by the results we've seen so far this week. Wichita State and St. Mary's probably have the best cases as at-large teams, followed by Monmouth and Valpo (in your author's opinion, anyway). But how good are those cases? First, the RPI numbers (from RealTimeRPI, as of last night).
35. St. Mary's
47. Wichita State
So, that's not great, even if the gulf between these teams is small in the big scheme. And strength of schedule?
105. Wichita State
159. St. Mary's
... And this is obviously better.
Looking at just those two numbers, the Orange certainly get a little bit of an edge over those four mid-majors, boosted in part (but not entirely) by an ACC schedule that has clear challenges above that of the others.
You can dig further into wins (everyone else has more than SU does) and losses (everyone else has less). But where Syracuse can still hang its hat more than the rest is on the ultimate quality of wins like Texas A&M, Notre Dame and Duke that their competitors may be able to match in part but not in whole. That's... good.
But it's clearly not the end, either. Syracuse faces Pitt today, and if they lose that game, perhaps those wins above matter little to a committee that sees the Orange in a bit of a freefall over the past couple weeks.
This isn't to paint a picture of gloom-and-oom for SU. Or tell you they're in the clear. They're in the same place they were. Win this game and you increase your chances. Lose and those chances diminish to a mark lower than most Orange fans are willing to admit.
The moral, as always, is control your own destiny. Syracuse still has the option to do so. Let's hope they take it.