On Tuesday, we took a look at the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team’s path to an NCAA at-large bid. But the SU women’s basketball team is even better situated for their own March Madness berth — would be the seventh straight.
According to ESPN’s bracketology, Syracuse is currently projected as No. 3 seed, which gives them subregional hosting duties in the first two rounds. So along with home games against the No. 14 seed (Troy currently projected) in the round of 64, the Carrier Dome would also serve as host of the second round matchup between the winner of that game and the 6 vs. 11 contest (Drake vs. Ohio in the current bracket).
From there, Syracuse would move on to nearby Albany and a likely matchup with Stanford before potentially having to face (of course) UConn for a chance at the Final Four.
Sure, we don’t want to be in UConn’s bracket, but that’s usually the price of being good enough to host a subregional when you’re an East Coast team. Syracuse wants to host a subregional (which it last did as a 4-seed during 2016’s Final Four run), so how can the Orange make sure that happens?
For starters, Syracuse is 16-4 overall and 5-2 in ACC play. Their RPI was eighth overall as of last night, with a 4-3 road record and 5-0 record at neutral sites. Few teams have played that many neutral site games, and no other team in the country has that many neutral site wins.
The road record’s not as impressive, but does feature a close game against No. 5 Oregon — for whatever that counts for. SU also owns quality wins against No. 17 UCF, No. 19 Texas A&M, No. 33 North Carolina, No. 38 DePaul, No. 40 Clemson and No. 43 Kansas State.
Here’s the remaining schedule:
Jan. 31: No. 103 Virginia Cavaliers
Feb. 5: at No. 7 Louisville Cardinals
Feb. 10: No. 80 Boston College Eagles
Feb. 13: No. 13 N.C. State Wolfpack
Feb. 17: No. 104 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Feb. 21: No. 108 Pittsburgh Panthers
Feb. 25: No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Feb. 28: at No. 23 Florida State Seminoles
Mar. 3: at No. 80 Boston College Eagles
As mentioned earlier, the Syracuse women’s team has a much easier path to an at-large bid due to their existing body of work already. With the quality wins listed above, the Orange simply need to take care of business against the teams they “should” beat, and they’ll wind up at 21-8 (10-6). But is that enough to keep a top-four seed?
A lot will depend on how the teams they’ve already beaten perform. If UCF, A&M and others keep winning, then even taking on a few losses won’t hurt the Orange much. The projection above sees them going 5-4 to close out, which isn’t great. But again, possessing neutral site wins over a couple top-20 teams will speak volumes. If those teams don’t stay as high in the rankings, Syracuse may need to tack on an extra big win for good measure — something like the road game at Florida State. That would mean another top-25ish win, and get SU to 22-7 before the ACC Tournament, and in line for a four-seed in the NCAAs at the very least.
Now, I don’t think Syracuse is a top-2 seed, but could they realistically play their way into that conversation and maybe even avoid UConn altogether?
It’s unfortunately unlikely despite the current top-8 RPI ranking. There’s a better case to be made for at least 10 teams, and Syracuse could very well lose to three of them — Notre Dame, Louisville, NC State — as the year wraps up. Add in Baylor, UConn, Oregon (who SU already lost to), Mississippi State and Stanford at minimum, and a top-2 seed could be a very tall order without upsetting one of the top three teams in the ACC.
The Orange close out the month with a home game vs. UVA before taking on mighty Louisville in February. A week of rest leading into that one could help a ton — though obviously most of SU’s chances will rely on their ability to hit threes more consistently again.