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What’s it going to take for Syracuse men’s basketball to make the NCAA Tournament?

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Things have gone poorly so far. How much of a 180 are we going to need to fix this?

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team is 5-5. Yes, this is the team’s worst start in decades. No, it’s not all that likely they’re making the NCAA Tournament given what’s transpired so far. But if we’re not even entertaining a chance it could happen, what’s the point of the rest of this season?

The selection committee largely leans on NET rating and in today’s initial release Syracuse is 75th. Feel free to get mad about that fact in the comments.

Syracuse’s wins

SU has five wins with the best one coming at 128th-ranked Georgia Tech. That one was on the road, thankfully, so it’ll help the NET. It’s just far from enough. The other four victories — Colgate, Cornell, Bucknell, Seattle — are all outside the top 150 and three are outside of the top 230. So it would seem unlikely the Orange are getting saved by what we’ve seen from the non-conference schedule so far.

Syracuse’s losses

The five losses so far are all to high quality opponents, which is helpful toward the final goal. Those losses (again, by initial NET ranking):

  • Penn State (18)
  • Iowa (21)
  • Georgetown (38)
  • Virginia (39)
  • Oklahoma State (41)

Just two of those Ls were at home, and one (the Hoyas) was on the road, which further helps us out.

Non-conference schedule

There are just three more games left in the non-conference schedule, and none of those are going to do much for us in terms of resume. Oakland is the highest-ranked of those all the way down at 173. North Florida’s next at 209, then Niagara (309). So, nothing doing there, beyond just adding wins to the total.

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

Conference schedule

Typically, this is where the ACC slate can rescue the Orange — and it has several times in the past. Though that may very well happen again this season, the league isn’t necessarily as deep as has always been the case. Just five ACC teams are top-50 in the current NET rankings, though five more (including Syracuse) are in 51-100 range. The hope there is at least a handful of those squads can jump up a bit. If not, it may be difficult to get more than six or seven teams in the field.

Further complicating matters are the opponents the Orange face the most in there. Here’s the remaining schedule separated out by home and away matchups:

Home

  • Duke (13)
  • NC State (50)
  • Virginia Tech (62)
  • Pittsburgh (81)
  • North Carolina (95)
  • Wake Forest (103)
  • Notre Dame (105)
  • Georgia Tech (128)
  • Boston College (143)

Road

  • Louisville (8)
  • Florida State (27)
  • Virginia (39)
  • Virginia Tech (62)
  • Notre Dame (65)
  • Pittsburgh (81)
  • Miami (89)
  • Clemson (139)
  • Boston College (143)

Right now, five games are against top-50 teams and another six are against teams outside the top 100. Sure, there’s a path to nine or 10 ACC wins in there, but with a 20-game schedule and the lack of strength relative to previous years, it’s easy to see how that total could feature zero wins of note.

Really, even a 13-7 ACC campaign could only feature a single top-50 win (NC State) and nothing of note on the road. There’s a reality where an 20-11 team has a pretty slim shot at making the field.

So rather, it’s not about the total wins (though 20 would be a good start) but who those are against. Hate to say it, but Syracuse probably needs to win at least three of those games against the top 50, and then also avoid unexpected losses. The more road victories the better, though can’t miss out on the easier home foes.

Is there a path to the NCAAs other than a surprise ACC Tournament run? Sure. Is it realistic? At the moment, wouldn’t necessarily think so. Jim Boeheim’s teams have surprised us before when odds were stacked against them. If they find a way this time around, it would be a minor miracle.