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Simulating Syracuse men’s basketball’s NIT trip

Catch the excitement!

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

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team finished the season with an impressive win over the North Carolina Tar Heels. That’s all well and good, but if they were to make the NCAA Tournament, SU would’ve had to win at least another game or two.

So given what we know — Syracuse went 18-14 and collected a road win over Virginia, most notably — the Orange would’ve wound up in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) for the first time since 2017.

SU’s never won the NIT, which is both good and bad, I guess. Would this have been the year?

We utilized NCAA Game Simulator to see just how far the Orange could’ve gotten. For a bracket, we used DRatings, which had Syracuse in the NIT field as a 4-seed.

First, a visual look at the four regions:

First-seeded region
Fourth-seeded region
Second-seeded region
Third-seeded region

Then, we simulated each matchup. Here are the scores after round one:

First Round

UCLA Region

  • No. 1 UCLA 81, No. 8 Radford 76
  • No. 4 Notre Dame 73, No. 5 Tennessee 71
  • No. 6 Oregon State 81, No. 3 Arkansas 75
  • No. 7 VCU 69, No. 2 Connecticut 63

Memphis Region

  • No. 1 Memphis 93, No. 8 Wright State 79
  • No. 4 Saint Louis 66, No. 5 Duquesne 61
  • No. 6 Boise State 93, No. 3 Tulsa 63
  • No. 2 Mississippi State 73, No. 7 Colgate 58

Stanford Region

  • No. 1 Stanford 88, No. 8 Arkansas-Little Rock 59
  • No. 5 SMU 68, No. 4 South Carolina 67
  • No. 6 St. John’s 71, No. 3 Rhode Island 56
  • No. 7 San Francisco 54, No. 2 Purdue 51

Texas Region

  • No. 8 Eastern Washington 85, No. 1 Texas 81
  • No. 4 Syracuse 87, No. 5 Furman 62
  • No. 3 Oklahoma State 99, No. 6 UNC-Greensboro 54
  • No. 2 Northern Iowa 78, No. 7 North Texas 70

Some chaos around the bracket, obviously, as the Stanford Region saw a slew of upsets and the top seed was knocked out of Syracuse’s region setting up a weird situation where the Orange would have to go on the road to face 8-seed EWU due to Dome renovations. Still, we’ll take the win.

Second Round

UCLA Region

  • No. 1 UCLA 68, No. 4 Notre Dame 53
  • No. 6 Oregon State 83, No. 7 VCU 53

Memphis Region

  • No. 1 Memphis 78, No. 4 Saint Louis 66
  • No. 2 Mississippi State 73, No. 6 Boise State 62

Stanford Region

  • No. 5 SMU 89, No. 1 Stanford 88
  • No. 6 St. John’s 71, No. 7 San Francisco 56

Texas Region

  • No. 4 Syracuse 96, No. 8 Eastern Washington 71
  • No. 3 Oklahoma State 73, No. 2 Northern Iowa 65

Again, Stanford Region’s in flames. But SU winds up advancing in convincing fashion vs. EWU to get to the Texas Regional Final — where they’ll face an OK State team that drubbed them earlier this year. Cool, cool...

NCAA Basketball: ACC Tournament-Syracuse vs North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports


UCLA Region

  • No. 1 UCLA 62, No. 6 Oregon State 54

Memphis Region

  • No. 2 Mississippi State 68, No. 1 Memphis 62

Stanford Region

  • No. 5 SMU 76, No. 6 St. John’s 62

Texas Region

  • No. 4 Syracuse 72, No. 3 Oklahoma State 64

This matchup’s actually been simulated 132 times (as of this writing) and the Orange win 57.6% of the time despite what we saw transpire in real life back in November. In this specific matchup, Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Hughes each score 25 points on a combined nine three-pointers made. Marek Doelzaj also chips in 10 as SU wins on the boards and shoots better than the Cowboys to score the win and make the program’s first NIT Final Four since 2002.

Final Four

  • Mississippi State 80, UCLA 65
  • SMU 70, Syracuse 58

The dream dies in New York City, which has somehow become a house of horrors for the Orange since leaving the Big East (enter your conspiratorial karmic retribution theories here). Syracuse falls behind in the latter part of the second half and struggles to keep up from there. SU actually shot better from the floor, but was beaten soundly on the boards and hit an unfortunate cold streak from beyond the arc — going 0-for-19 from three. Far from surprising given the struggles from outside late in the year.


So we still haven’t won an NIT title, but at least in this scenario, SU winds up scoring another 20-win season. Happy with the results? Annoyed we didn’t take home the championship despite getting so close? Share your own thoughts below.