During the Syracuse Orange’s lackluster effort against Virginia, I posited what may have been a too-optimistic look at their NCAA Tournament outlook going into the final eight games.
Safe to assume a loss here, so looking ahead at Syracuse's unlikely path to the NCAAs:— John Cassillo (@JohnCassillo) February 3, 2018
Need to go 5-3 to close regular season. Two of those wins need to be against top-25ish teams, and at least one needs to be on the road. Also need an ACC Tourney win.
That take was created in a vacuum, obviously, not really paying any mind to what can happen to teams outside of Syracuse over the next month or so. Still, we do know that there are certain constants for the Orange. Their RPI will be relatively high, and their strength of schedule will be even higher. According to the NCAA’s new quadrant system, they’re also 6-6 in tier 1 and tier 2 games, with plenty of opportunities to add to that total.
Each season’s also different. But if you look at this year’s Syracuse bubble team compared to the last two, there are some deciding factors for why each made (or didn’t make) the NCAA Tournament.
Most importantly were quality wins away from the Carrier Dome. Last year, there were none. But in 2015-16, UConn and Texas A&M were nice victories, but the biggest pelt was beating Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. There was also the fact that 2015-16 did not feature the resume-sinking loss that last year did (St. John’s).
Beyond that, the profiles were pretty similar. And this year’s is shaping up to look the part as well. Where things start to turn more toward 2016 over 2017, however, starts with Monday’s upset over the Louisville Cardinals.
Syracuse actually hasn’t been terrible away from home — 1-1 in neutral-site games and 3-4 now on the road — which does start to mimic the 2016 tournament profile. Where they may need a little bit more of a boost than that year is in terms of quality, though. After Louisville, Syracuse’s next-best win away from home is probably UConn. They’re probably going to need another one to make up for it.
Looking at the final seven regular season games, I’d say the Orange need to go 4-3 with at least one road win in there. And then really follow that up with (finally!) an ACC Tournament victory. Grouping the seven regular season games:
- Wake Forest
- NC State
- at Boston College
Most likely losses
- at Duke
- North Carolina
- at Miami
Assuming (BIG assumption) the Orange take those three must-win games, the season could very well hinge on the upcoming Miami contest, vs. a Hurricanes team down its best player in Bruce Brown. That combination would mean two more quality road wins and zero bad losses (there are none left on the schedule anyway).
So 4-3 is pretty safe, and nears lock territory with an ACC Tournament victory. But how about 3-4? That gets far more dicey.
At 3-4, Syracuse could potentially add zero top-50 wins and just one road win (at BC). A single road win isn’t a bad thing if paired with a quality victory at home (UNC/Clemson). Without one, though, things get far more questionable. Not only would the Orange lack another top-50 win, they’d also have a losing record in league play. There, it’s likely they’d need two ACC Tournament victories to secure a spot.
If Syracuse wants to end all the speculation and just go 7-0, that works too. But just prepping us for the more likely scenarios.
What do you think, though? Does 4-3 do it? Or does the resume still need more meat? Put your amateur bracketology skills to the test below.