As you’re aware, the Syracuse Orange are 12-5 on the season. And while that’s far from the spotless starts we were once used to around here (a few too many unbeaten beginnings spoiled us...), it’s also far from a death knell for SU’s NCAA Tournament hopes.
Since Jim Boeheim took over (1976-77), SU has started 12-5 or worse just nine times -- though each of the last three seasons. Of those, four were 12-5 (this year, 2007-08, 1998-99 and 1992-93). They also made the NCAA Tournament just once in those four years; the 1998-99 season.
Looking at all nine seasons of 12-5 or worse, Syracuse has only made the NCAAs in two of them. That aforementioned 1998-99 campaign and the 10-7 start in 2015-16 that turned into a Final Four run were the only ones to end favorably.
So while that doesn’t sound TOO encouraging, strong starts also aren’t necessarily a guarantee of a bad year, either. Starting 13-4 in 2014-15 didn’t end in the NCAAs, and the 15-2 start in 2001-02 didn’t either. Whether these are exceptions to the rule or not will be what we figure out next.
But this really is uncharted territory for the program under Boeheim in terms of slow starts. Going 12-5 or worse in three straight seasons now is a first, so we don’t necessarily know what comes of it historically (especially when one of those seasons has already resulted in a Final Four). Obviously we know WHY this downturn has occurred, and we don’t need to rehash that here.
One way to get a better idea of how this season will end is obviously Saturday’s game against Florida State. In both 2015-16 and 1998-99, the Orange won the 18th game of the season — and the same was true of game No. 19 as well. This year’s SU schedule eases up considerably after this FSU game. So a road upset here and then a home win over a very beatable Pitt team could put Syracuse right back on the atypical pace of those two seasons.