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What does Syracuse men’s basketball need to do to make the NCAA Tournament?

There’s still work to do, but plenty of opportunities to get it done.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s loss to Virginia Tech was a bummer for several reasons. For one, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team got blown out, which is never great to watch. But it also dashed hopes of grabbing what would’ve been a critical road win for SU’s NCAA Tournament resume.

Lucky for us, though, there are still quite a few more opportunities to grab the needed wins for the Orange to hopefully end up on the right side of the bubble for the third time in four seasons.

On Monday,’s Donna Ditota dove into how SU looks in terms of computer metrics and the quadrant system. As she writes, the Orange are 2-2 in Quad 1 games, 3-2 vs. Quad 2, 4-2 vs. Quad 3 and 5-0 in games against Quad 4 opponents. What’s left on the schedule?

Seven Quad 1 games, two Quad 2 games and two more in Quad 3 — all before you factor in any potential ACC Tournament wins.

Quad 1 games and road wins are going to be key, as they were last year. But Syracuse is already in a potentially better place there than they were last year. The Orange went 3-8 in Quad 1 games last season, with four total road wins. This time around, they’re already looking like they could surpass that Quad 1 total (just need two more victories out of seven chances) and also have three road wins. Two of those are against Duke and Ohio State — a collection of true road victories few potential bubble competitors will really be able to hold a candle to.

So what does Syracuse have to do in order to lock in a bid? First, the schedule:

Wednesday, Jan. 30: at Boston College Eagles

Saturday, Feb. 2: at Pittsburgh Panthers

Tuesday, Feb. 5: Florida State Seminoles

Saturday, Feb. 9: Boston College Eagles

Wednesday, Feb. 13: at N.C. State Wolfpack

Wednesday, Feb. 20: Louisville Cardinals

Saturday, Feb. 23: Duke Blue Devils

Tuesday, Feb. 26: at North Carolina Tar Heels

Saturday, March 2: at Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Monday, March 4: Virginia Cavaliers

Saturday, March 9: at Clemson Tigers

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse sits at 5-2 in league play right now, and likely needs to hit at least nine wins to have a compelling shot at an at-large bid (we did go 8-10 in 2017-18, however). But with three games against BC and Wake Forest, there’s an easy path to eight or nine without accumulating more quality Ws.

The 2-2 record in Quad 1 games probably needs two more wins, since the Orange will be picking up losses, and there’s the possibility that the NCAA Tournament committee decides to add an asterisk to the Duke win since Tre Jones was hurt for most of it (I don’t agree with that sentiment, but just tossing it out there that something like that is possible).

If we’re looking at the Quad 1 games, the most likely wins for Syracuse, in order: at Pittsburgh, at Clemson, Louisville, at NC State, at North Carolina, Virginia, Duke. Win any of the last three and as long as you don’t completely botch the rest of the schedule, you’re almost definitely going dancing.

But the most realistic path to an at-large bid — to me — looks like this:

  • Wins: at BC, at Pitt, FSU, BC, Louisville, at Wake Forest, at Clemson
  • Losses: at NCSU, Duke, at UNC, Virginia
NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Closing the season like this wouldn’t mean SU was ranked, to be honest. But it would give them a 12-6 record in league play, four more road wins and three more Quad 1 wins... and near-certain inclusion in the field. A loss to Louisville — even one at home — puts things in a much more perilous place at 11-7 with just one perceptively BIG win in-conference (a fun/terrifying product of this year’s ACC schedule). That would absolutely require a win in the ACC Tournament to hopefully lock in the bid. At 12-6, you don’t “need” one, but if the team’s actually good, it shouldn’t be much trouble to get one.

Keep in mind these NET ratings that inform the Quadrant system will continue to change, so none of this is carved in stone. But barring a complete collapse in the other games, we’re likely looking out for two or three more Quad 1 wins and at least three more road wins to find the Orange on solid footing (these things can overlap, too). Anything else is a much more significant dice roll given how the non-conference schedule went.

Thoughts? Bring your own amateur bracketologist takes below.