Through three contests, SU’s done just that. The Orange are now 4-4 in ACC play and 15-6 overall. Two wins over Pitt may not do more than check a box, but a blowout victory over the improved Boston College Eagles did earn some positive attention. Syracuse remains in the thick of the bubble conversation with critical games versus Georgia Tech (Wednesday) and Virginia (Saturday) looming.
If you consult Bracket Matrix as of Sunday evening, the Orange are an 11-seed, sitting as high as eighth but as low as out of the field at the time of this writing. Only Boise State has a lower average seeding of those at-large teams included in the field of 68.
SU is one of eight ACC teams considered “in” there (even by that slim margin), and one of four sitting squarely on the bubble. The Orange are the lone one of those squads getting the nod right now. Notre Dame and Virginia Tech are both among the first four out. NC State is in the group of next four out.
Obviously Syracuse is in that weird position where they want both the Irish and Hokies to do well — but not so well that the caliber of their respective resumes surpass SU’s (see the questionable case for Wake Forest last year despite the Orange’s head-to-head win). Syracuse beat Virginia Tech soundly at home this season, but also fell to a shorthanded Notre Dame by two points.
These things do ebb and flow from day to day, but with February just a couple days away, take this as a bit of a mile marker for the Orange. On the plus side, SU has already faced quite a few teams in the NCAA conversation (Kansas, Virginia, FSU, St. Bonaventure, Buffalo, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Maryland). But the counterpoint there is that they still have games against Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Miami, Boston College, Louisville and NC State.
A tournament team is likely going to need four wins in there, plus wins over Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. Winning an ACC Tournament game would also be ideal, and a nice change for the Orange, obviously. We’ve yet to do so since joining the league, sadly, and the early exits are part of what’s had us sweating out Selection Sunday of late. Even one victory could be what a (hopefully) 10-8 ACC team needs to push them over the top and be less dependent on what happens to other would-be at-large squads around the country.
Is this scientific? Hardly. But this is a tournament of 68 teams seeded by a committee of people, rather than just sorted out by computer ratings. There are models and projections that can help us frame the conversation, but ultimately we’re relying on Syracuse finding the right mix of factors to help itself in lieu of the gaudy resumes top seeds possess.