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Syracuse basketball enters ACC play with plenty of work to be done

SU-VT tips off tonight at the Dome.

NCAA Basketball: St. Bonaventure at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange guard Howard Washington (10) shoots the ball as St. Bonaventure Bonnies forward LaDarien Griffin (left) defends during overtime at the Carrier Dome. 
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange (11-2) had their fair share of ups and downs in the non-conference portion of the schedule, but escaped in pretty good shape heading into the vigorous ACC schedule.

With the best win over Maryland, Syracuse dropped two games to then-No. 2 Kansas and unranked St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies are going to contend for the A-10 regular season title, but the loss stings nonetheless.

The Orange will open up ACC play at home tonight against Virginia Tech (11-2) at 6 p.m. ET.

NCAA Basketball: St. Bonaventure at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next three months, Syracuse has six Top 25 contests - which is subject to change in either direction - and has plenty of work to be done.

Syracuse will need a signature win at some point in order to make a case on Selection Sunday that they belong in the NCAA Tournament. Whether that’s an upset of Duke or squeaking one out at home against Virginia — there’s not much debate that something has to fall in the Orange’s favor.

Right now, I see eight games the Orange can win in ACC play: take both from Pittsburgh, split with Boston College, split with Wake Forest, beat Clemson, Virginia Tech and NC State at home and beat Georgia Tech on the road. If Syracuse can do that, even without upsetting someone along the way, that’ll put SU at 19 wins heading into the ACC Tournament.

Now, as we know, things don’t always go according to plan. If Syracuse drops one of those eight games they’ll simply have to make up for it elsewhere (at Duke, home against Virginia, at Louisville, etc.). It puts the pressure on the team, but over the years the Orange has shown it can handle pressure of a must-win type game. Hopefully this year is no different.

The first step towards getting back to the NCAA Tournament begins tonight against Buzz Williams and the Hokies. The game can be seen on ESPNU.

Here’s the hoping Syracuse can end 2017 with a victory, and open 2018 in first place of the nation’s best conference.