The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team is 17-14 (10-10 in ACC play) and will need to win the ACC Tournament in order to make it to the NCAAs. This much we know with near-certainty before games start in Greensboro on Tuesday.
What we also know is that Syracuse will have it pretty tough if they want to pull of what’s seemingly impossible right now: Four straight wins, and three of those likely have to be against the Florida State/Virginia/Louisville/Duke group that has lorded over the conference all regular season. Another is probably against a talented (though still decided “down” this year) North Carolina squad.
For those that are embracing realism and/or pessimism for the sake of their health, it’s best to just chalk this year up to a loss and try to watch an NIT game or two. If you’re decidedly in the irrational optimism camp, you’ve probably already imagined Buddy Boeheim as Gerry McNamara circa 2006 and planned Jim Boeheim’s victory speech in Greensboro. Granted, there are middle grounds to these two alternatives, but we’re Orange fans, after all... we’re prone to absolutes.
You already know which of the two camps above that I likely fall in. So this is for the other group. I’m going to show you how Syracuse men’s basketball pulls off the seemingly impossible and makes the NCAA Tournament.
Wednesday, Mar. 11
With UNC surprisingly vanquished by Virginia Tech in the first round, Syracuse gets a struggling Hokies squad in round two. While Tech played SU close in two games this year (splitting them), the Orange looked like they’d figured something out in Blacksburg — plus the Hokies went just 2-10 to close the year.
With Elijah Hughes anxious to cement his legacy in this event, he explodes for 30, while Buddy chips in 21. The supporting cast takes care of the rest in an oddly relaxing 74-59 victory.
Thursday, Mar. 12
We all recall what happened when Syracuse last met Louisville, but the Orange pay the past no mind. The Cards go cold from outside while SU’s bigs manage to stay in the game (both Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe fouled out). It’s far from easy, but some hot shooting down the stretch leads to another Buddy “they can’t guard me” performance. A late three-point miss by Joe Girard seems to spell potential doom before Dolezaj gets fouled on the put-back. The Orange take a two-point lead, then hold on for the 78-75 victory — their best of the season.
Friday, Mar. 13
Friday the 13th sets the stage for some weird happenings... including Syracuse knocking off Virginia for the second time this calendar year. UVA’s been hot of late, but the offense has still looked pretty rough around the edges. SU refuses to get dragged into the mud, pushing the Hoos to run — which is where their continued offensive inefficiency shows itself. Neither team looks amazing, but the Orange end Virginia’s string of single-digit victories, pulling off a 66-61 win.
Saturday, Mar. 14
The upstart Orange make it to the ACC title game, where they line up against a Duke squad that’s looked good in many ways this year, but has also underwhelmed relative to its talent. We saw the script for how Syracuse could beat the Blue Devils earlier this year too, but SU just happened to go cold. Not the case this time around as Hughes and Girard both top 20 points and Buddy adds 14. They’ll need every point, as it takes a Hughes three with seconds remaining to take a one-point lead. SU holds on to win 81-80 and takes home the championship. After the game, Jim Boeheim tells reporters and the assembled fans that “Greensboro has some value,” thus restarting the feud between the Hall of Fame coach and his conference’s home city.
Sunday, Mar. 15
Syracuse is in with certainty, but it’s still nice to see it made official. After winning the conference, the Orange are awarded a 9-seed out West. Despite an underwhelming regular season campaign, no one wants to see them in the NCAAs — which is exactly the way we want it.
Irrational? Unlikely? Share your own thoughts about the above in the comments.