On Monday, we discussed what it would take to get the Syracuse Orange to the NCAA Tournament, and I was of the mindset that four wins were pretty necessary. There were potential ways that three could make it happen. But that required both more SU wins and more wins by teams we’ve beaten -- like Louisville, Miami and Virginia Tech.
Two of those schools have already helped us out on that front.
After the Hokies’ stunning upset over Duke on Monday, Miami knocked off North Carolina on Tuesday. SU beat Tech at home earlier this year, and Miami on the road a week and a half ago.
Those wins give each team 10 conference victories, which officially put them out of any tiebreaker situation with SU (currently 7-9 in the ACC). That sounds bad on paper, but as mentioned, this could end up being pretty helpful.
If Syracuse can get to 9-9 in the ACC (starting tonight with a road win at Boston College), they’d not only gain a new marquee win over Clemson, but hit that sometimes magic .500 mark in conference play. Teams make the tournament with losing records in their leagues, just like some miss it with winning records (as the Orange have done in the past). But hitting .500 — especially in a conference like the ACC — feels like a checked box for the committee. Not the only one, of course. But one, nonetheless.
That 9-9 record at this point could also come with a finish as low as 11th place. No clue how the committee would view something like that. But at least it would set us up a bit better in the league tournament.
Should that transpire, Syracuse would get either Georgia Tech or Wake Forest in round one, then any number of highly-regarded teams that finishes sixth in the conference. That list pulls from everyone North Carolina, Clemson and NC State, to Virginia Tech, Miami and Louisville. Each and every one of those matchups appear winnable. We’ve already beaten three of them, and came close on two more. A 9-9 record would assume a win over Clemson. A win over any of them would virtually seal the deal for Syracuse’s NCAA chances.
I know there are doubters about the logic around avoiding the 8/9 game, but it really is a raw deal. Win that game against an evenly matched opponent and you get to play Virginia. Lose that game, as we did last year, and you could end up getting skipped by a squad that finished below you and/or lost to you head-to-head. All because they got to beat up on a bad team on Tuesday, THEN face a team more evenly matched in the 7/10 game.
Going back to when the ACC expanded to 15 teams, the winner of the 8/9 game is 0-4 in the next contest. Just looking at 10-seeds, that group is 3-4 overall (all losing in game two). If you’re wondering about the numbers discrepancy, the ACC’s had a hard time getting all 15 teams to the tournament, as we’re familiar with.
So is it a fool-proof setup? Of course not. But things are already falling into place for the Orange to maybe have a more favorable draw in the league tournament -- not by way of losing, but by way of other teams (that we’ve beaten) continuing to win. With the eight-seed as the ceiling now, we’re (or at least I am) oddly rooting for a Tuesday game now. Let’s just hope we can finally pick up an ACC Tourney victory this time around...