With a daunting and condensed ACC schedule ahead, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team has their work cut out for them just 10 games into the 2020-21 season.
They’re 7-3, and while that’s not terrible (and has had some positive results in the past), the current resume lacks marquee wins — something that will need to be rectified in the coming couple months of play. It’s why Syracuse is hanging around the bubble right now, as current bracketology projections seem to suggest.
Blogging the Bracket: First Four Out
Prior to the UNC game on Tuesday, SB Nation’s resident bracketolgist Chris Dobbertean saw Syracuse just outside the field at 7-2. Losing by single digits on the road to North Carolina isn’t going to knock them down at all, really. And a potential positive here: Two of the teams (Pittsburgh, NC State) on the line right above them are on the schedule already among the “last four in.” Beat the Panthers on Saturday and the Wolfpack at the end of the month, and the Orange could conceivably leap over both if they at least win the other games they’re supposed to.
Joe Lunardi: Last Four In
Another one that was filed before the UNC game, but the loss to the Heels isn’t going to shift Syracuse more than a couple lines down (which would be enough to remove them from the field here). Lunardi had the Orange as the last team in, but also in that group was North Carolina. Just above them,in the “last four byes” group is Duke. It certainly seems weird that a game between Syracuse and the Blue Devils could have bubble implications for both teams, yet that may be where we’re headed.
Team Rankings: First Four Out
Team Rankings runs these simulations every day, so this is up-to-date as of Wednesday night’s results. Here, Syracuse sits just outside the field, but also has their work cut out for them to get in without some big wins to bolster the resume. Rutgers is among the last at-large teams to make it, as is Maryland. The Orange already have a loss to the Scarlet Knights, and the Big Ten’s strength relative to the ACC’s lack of it this year should bolster the chances for both SUNJ and the Terps to put together a stronger case than ‘Cuse can.
CBS Sports: Out of the Field
Jerry Palm didn’t go beyond the first four out in his bracket exercise late last week, and Syracuse isn’t included there. However, like Dobbertean’s bracket, there are plenty of opportunities to position SU better against bubble cohorts. Both NC State and Pittsburgh are currently among Palm’s last teams in, plus there are the other ACC squads with better seeds.
Another pick from Tuesday before the North Carolina loss, but a defeat there is unlikely to shift Syracuse into danger just yet in this bracket. A win in this hypothetical matchup would probably mean a date with Gonzaga (which we avoided in 2019 by losing to Baylor in another 8-vs-9 game). If we’re actually sitting this high without a big win, then beating who we’re supposed to the rest of the way would conceivably be enough to make the field.
Bracket Matrix: 12-seed vs. Minnesota
Bracket Matrix is an average across all brackets, so keep that in mind here. This is just as influenced by those that project Syracuse out of the field as they are the folks that see the Orange as safely in right now. Minnesota would be a fun opponent that we’ve only faced twice all time — including a seven-point loss in the 1990 NCAA Tournament. The Gophers look challenging this year, but also aren’t unstoppable on the glass and can’t hit threes.
The biggest issue that arises above isn’t the fact that Syracuse is on the outside looking in according to several prognosticators. It’s the fact that the ACC lacks those enormous opportunities for resume padding.
Right now, Syracuse’s NET ranking is 47 — not bad, but could use some improvement. Just five ACC teams are listed above them, however, and Duke and UNC aren’t among them. No ACC squad is higher than Clemson at 15, followed by Louisville (24), Virginia Tech (32), Virginia (34) and Florida State (39). Wins over a couple of those get you in provided you take care of business elsewhere. But big upsets in-league aren’t necessarily equaling free passes to the Big Dance this year since the ACC finds itself down once again.
We’ll know a lot more about SU’s tournament chances over the next five games, with two against higher-rated teams (UVA, VaTech) and another two against squads below the Orange but also firmly on the bubble in Pitt and NC State. Come out of that stretch winning two and we’re still on track. Three and Syracuse has strengthened its tournament odds considerably.