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Roundtable: What’s the path for Syracuse men’s basketball to get back to the NCAA Tournament

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NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Virginia Tech Michael Thomas Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange are riding a three-game winning streak into their visit to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. This streak has visions of Sweet Sixteens dancing in the heads of Orange fans but how can Syracuse keep those dreams alive? We posed this question in our TNIAAM Slack channel:

What do you think it will take for Syracuse to earn an NCAA Tournament bid and how do you see the path to get there?

Here’s what our writers think:

James Szuba

First, I have no idea what the NCAA Tournament bubble will look like two months from now in this wacky, bizarro year of college hoops. To suggests otherwise would be foolish. What’s going to be the difference between, say, a No. 6 seed and a No. 9 seed this year? And what’s the difference between an at-large No. 10 seed and a No. 4 seed in the NIT? There might not be much separation. Anyway, I think Syracuse just needs to get wins of any variety here, irrespective of Q1 or Q3. As of now, Syracuse is without a doubt on the outside looking in. It’s vital to earn quality wins and avoid tacking on more losses at this point. Generally speaking, Syracuse will probably need to get to 20 wins and beat at least one of Duke/at Florida State/at Louisville. Syracuse’s road record is good right now, but a win or two in the ACC Tournament would help improve the Orange’s 0-2 neutral court record. Or, if Jim Boeheim wants to win the ACCT and secure the auto-bid in Greensboro, I wouldn’t be opposed of the trolling, or Boeheim delivering an all-time presser. That would be peak Syracuse.

Syracuse basketball vs. Duke Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Wall

20 wins is usually the magic number for P5 teams so on the surface it looks the Orange need nine more wins to get there. The issue is that there’s a path to those nine wins where the “best win” could be at Notre Dame or home against NC State and I don’t think that’s an automatic path based on the lack of good non-conference wins. For those wondering the nine wins I am talking about would be Notre Dame, Pitt twice, Wake Forest, NC State, Georgia Tech, UNC, BC and Miami and that’s not a string of quality wins by the NET metrics.

Syracuse will need to get another signature win along the way and while beating Duke is always a good way to get noticed getting a road win at Louisville or Florida State would be even better. This also assumes Syracuse takes care of business against weaker opponents so I’d expect the Orange head to Greensboro in March still needing a win to earn a bid.

John Cassillo

Syracuse was left out a few years ago despite tallying three top-15ish wins at home, so forgive me for not being so quick to count them in the field this time around. The UVA road victory is a big one (though not nearly the win it would’ve been to start the year). But scoring more big wins away from the Dome will be a tall order — unless you see us on the same level as Florida State and Louisville (and if so, bless you).

Viewing things on the more optimistic side, however, if they can win the games they’re supposed to and beat two of Duke, Florida State, Louisville or NC State, that could very well be enough to have them firmly in the conversation heading into the ACC Tournament. That event hasn’t been too kind to us in the past. That’ll have to change if they have a shot to make the NCAAs this time around.

Bobby Manning

My pipe dream remains: win the ACC Tournament.

In recent years dramatic upset victories — with the narrative boost they provided a team like Syracuse, beating Duke on the road last year — buoyed a borderline team’s resumé. The lack of dominant teams, or even quality bubble squads, could further confuse the voting process and allow an Orange team with a stronger resumé after February in.

I don’t see Syracuse developing that resumé though, especially now with poor losses holding them down, particularly through the non-conference stretch. A few can balance out against better victories. We’ve seen more than a handful.

The Oklahoma State one looks particularly bad, surely Georgetown will join their demise in an incredibly strong Big East. Throw Notre Dame up there with them, Mike Brey’s group is 1-4 in ACC play outside of their dramatic victory over the Orange at the Dome. If SU loses to the Irish again on Wednesday, forget about it.

Virginia already appears on a downward trajectory after losses to Syracuse and Boston College. Virginia Tech’s start surprised many, so we’ll see if they hold on as a quality win themselves. I’d bet on it, the selection system still loves road wins even as they’ve become more common, and the Orange have finished games strong on the road lately (2-0 in ACC). But remember, the Hokies beat SU at the Dome themselves.

Those are the only two quality wins SU can boast so far. What the recent slate showed us is Syracuse’s ability to improve through the course of a season and compete with the ACC field. We’ll learn more about that into February with a tougher schedule awaiting.

That remains my most realistic hope: strengthen the defense through this stretch, win enough games to flex better seeding in Greensboro, then go on a run. If there’s any year, it’s this one.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments