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Looking at Syracuse men’s basketball’s ACC Tournament possibilities

Let’s focus on the postseason event we’re heading to no matter what...

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

With a 15-12 (8-8) record, the only postseason event the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team is guaranteed to participate in is the ACC Tournament. That’s depressing, of course. But it’s a reality we’re living in, and if there’s an outside shot for Syracuse to make it to the NCAA Tournament, the conference tournament in Greensboro is that chance.

SU is currently tied for fifth in the league, with NC State, Notre Dame and Clemson. They’re 1-3 in games against those teams, going 1-1 vs. the Irish and 0-1 against the Wolfpack and Tigers, respectively.

So with four regular season games remaining, let’s take a look at where the Orange can finish and how that potentially sets them up in Greensboro.

[NOTE: very small notes made below since we completely forgot about Georgia Tech’s postseason ban the first time around — Tech didn’t really impact us much since we owned a potential tiebreaker anyway, if needed]

Fourth place

  • How they get there: Virginia (11-5) goes 0-4 to end the season, while Syracuse (8-8) goes 4-0 AND Notre Dame, Clemson and NC State all finish 11-9 or worse

Amazingly, the ACC is really bad enough this year that SU could go 12-8 and get a double-bye. The Hoos have Virginia Tech, Duke, Miami and Louisville to close the year, so it’s probably unlikely they lose all four — and the Hoos own the tiebreaker despite splitting two games with Syracuse this year, in case both teams go 12-8.

However, if the Orange got the double-bye, that may not be advantageous for what they need to make a longshot NCAA Tournament bid. On top of just needing wins, they need wins over that top teams in the conference. Finishing fourth decreases the odds of facing those teams enough times, and also hurts the value of both the existing win over UVA and any future one.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Fifth place

  • How they get there: Syracuse wins enough games to avoid ties with Notre Dame, NC State and Clemson, while Virginia wins one of their final four games

Not too different from the scenario above. SU could go 4-0 but if Virginia winds up 1-3, they get the fourth seed (via beating Florida State). Going 4-0 would be the best way to avoid a tie with those other three squads, though it’s not the only way.

State has the “easiest” road remaining of those squads, with North Carolina, Pitt and Wake Forest, plus a visit to Duke. Clemson has two games vs. Georgia Tech, plus FSU and Virginia Tech. Notre Dame faces Boston College, Wake, FSU and Virginia Tech. It’s pretty conceivable that all three could go 3-1, which increases the need for SU (easiest schedule of the entire group) to win out.

SU could also get here if they finish tied with Notre Dame (thanks, Virginia win!), but at least a game ahead of Clemson and NC State.

Sixth place

  • How they get there: Syracuse avoids ties with both NC State and Clemson OR finish below Notre Dame

See above for a lot of the details of schedules, etc. But this seed could be a decent place to provide the most opportunities to pick up the wins needed to get back into the NCAA Tournament conversation — granted, winding up here means SU also picked up another loss (to one of Pitt/UNC/BC/Miami), so an NCAA bid is even further away than it is right now since none of those teams are all that well regarded.

A six-seed does provide an opportunity to pick up a Quad 2 win, though (if it’s the 11-seed). Then a game against the No. 3 team (probably one of Duke/FSU/Louisville), before a likely matchup with another one of that Duke/FSU/Louisville group if you pull off a win.

Seventh place

  • How they get there: Syracuse winds up tied with two of NC State/Clemson, OR just has worse records than those teams, OR one of them plus Notre Dame

As mentioned, SU loses a three-way tiebreaker to the teams that are also 8-8, but also own the tiebreak over Notre Dame. So a tie with Clemson AND NC State sends the Orange down to seventh, as does finishing below one of them and the Irish. See schedules above, but it’s not farfetched to see this occur.

Eighth place

  • How they get there: Syracuse is tied with all three of the NC State/Notre Dame/Clemson (even if they go 4-0), OR has worse records than three teams either from that group or someone else below them right now

Tiebreakers knocks Syracuse down three spots if all four teams have the same record. There’s also the simpler solution of SU having a worse record than those three teams, or any three teams currently listed below FSU/Duke/Louisville/UVA in the standings. SU can clinch the tiebreaker over BC (7-10) with a win at the Eagles on March 3.

Syracuse could lose a tiebreaker to Virginia Tech (6-10) depending on where NC State finishes — since the Hokies beat State but the Orange did not, and the teams are 1-1 against one another. SU can earn a tiebreaker over Miami (6-11) and Pitt (6-11) by beating both in these next two games. Going 1-1 vs. Pitt and finishing tied with them would knock Syracuse down a seed since the Panthers have beaten FSU.

Ninth place

  • How they get there: This is in play if Syracuse goes 2-2 or worse to close the season

If Syracuse goes 2-2, that could include a loss to Boston College (currently 7-10 in league play), potentially setting the Eagles up to both remove SU’s current tiebreaker and take it for themselves since BC owns wins over NC State and Virginia Tech (swept 2-0).

BC would have to go 3-0 down the stretch with wins over SU, Notre Dame and Florida State to make this happen (if ‘Cuse goes 2-2) — so not necessarily likely. Syracuse finishing worse than 2-2 opens the door for Boston College, and allows tiebreakers with Virginia Tech, Miami and Pitt to take effect.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

10th place

  • How they get there: Going 1-3 is the start of how this becomes a more distinct possibility

Syracuse finishing 1-3 could include losses to BC, Pitt and Miami, helping any of those three jump them in the standings (though all would need to collect more wins as well). Mentioned Boston College’s remaining schedule above. Miami has Georgia Tech, Virginia and SU, while Pitt faces the Orange, NC State and GT. To leap past Syracuse, any of these teams would have to get to 9-11 in league play. Just one needs to for SU to fall to 11th (if the Orange are also 9-11, obviously).

11th place

  • How they get there: Going 1-3 or worse, with two of BC/Pitt/Miami having same record or better

That’s really it, though one tiebreaker caveat if SU’s one win (should they go 1-3) is over any one of those teams.

12th place

  • How they get there: Going 1-3 or worse, with BC/Pitt/Miami all having the same or better records



Syracuse has the head-to-head advantage over Wake Forest (4-12) and UNC’s 3-13 league record puts them out of reach of catching the Orange, making it so that SU can’t drop any further than 12th in the Georgia Tech-less standings. So... hooray?