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What does Syracuse basketball have to do to make the NCAA Tournament?

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Baylor v Syracuse Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Welcome back to our annual foray as we peel back the onion on the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team vis-à-vis its chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

Syracuse currently sits on an overall record of 12-6 and 6-5 record in conference play. As you might suspect, the Orange are in somewhat familiar territory as Jim Boeheim’s team is on the NCAA Tournament bubble, although on the outside looking in right now.

Before we get going we should preface this conversation with this: the practices of bracketology have no ultimate impact on how the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will evaluate teams. Bracketology is a snapshot taken in time and should be thought of as a rough guide on how the tournament and seeding would look if the season ended on a given day.

With that said, Syracuse is only included in five of a potential 101 bracket projections, according to bracket matrix. In short, Syracuse has work to do. With its remaining schedule it has chances to build a tournament worthy résumé, but no games are guaranteed.

Here’s Syracuse remaining schedule and how it breaks down in the NET:

Feb. 17 - At Louisville (Quadrant 1)
Feb. 20 - Notre Dame (Quadrant 2)
Feb. 22 - At Duke (Quadrant 1)
Feb. 27 - At Georgia Tech (Quadrant 1)
Mar. 1 - North Carolina (Quadrant 2)

As a refresher, here’s how the quadrants break down by NET:

Quadrant 1: Home (1-30) Neutral (1-50) Away (1-75)
Quadrant 2: Home (31-75) Neutral (51-100) Away (76-135)
Quadrant 3: Home (76-160) Neutral (101-200) Away (136-240)
Quadrant 4: Home (161-357) Neutral (201-357) Away (241-357)

And here’s a look at Syracuse’s current résumé:

Syracuse’s Team Sheet (click to enlarge)

Syracuse is currently No. 52 in NET. Based on Saturday’s Bracket Preview we can glean that the selection committee will lean hard into the NET ranking itself when seeding teams this March. That’s not to say that record by quadrant or things like strength of schedule aren’t important. They are.

Syracuse has an overall strength of schedule of 104 and non-conference strength of schedule of 143. The Orange are a mixed bag in metrics with a KPI of 77, SOR of 55, BPI of 29. They’re 57 in KenPom and 47 in Sagarin (ignore Sagarin ranking on team sheet).

Syracuse has an obvious disparity between home and road games with a 10-1 home record and 2-5 road record. Historically the selection committee values teams that win on the road.

Here’s Syracuse record by quadrant:

Q1: 0-4
Q2: 2-1
Q3: 7-1
Q4: 3-0

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Orange have no bad losses, a fate it will avoid the rest of the way. Even an unexpected loss to Boston College/Miami/Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament would qualify as quadrant three. Not great, but not “bad.”

But the selection process is more about inclusion than exclusion, so Syracuse has work to do in the quadrant one category. The Orange are probably going to need to win at least two quadrant one games the rest of the way. Virginia Tech could do Syracuse a favor if it moves up to No. 30 in NET or better, from its current ranking of No. 34.

It’s possible Syracuse could schedule another opponent before the ACC Tournament begins on Mar. 9 (and hey, maybe buying a quadrant one game from Colgate — who is No. 11 in NET — wouldn’t be a bad idea. Colgate’s last game is scheduled for Feb. 28 and the Patriot League Tournament doesn’t begin until Mar. 6).

The ACC Tournament is set to take place in Greensboro from Mar. 9 through Mar. 13. It’s been left up to the conferences to determine how automatic qualifiers are determined. In other words, the ACC and other conferences can choose to give its automatic NCAA Tournament bid to either the regular season champion or conference tournament winner. It’s possible for teams to opt out of conference tournaments if they’re considered locks for the NCAA Tournament.

Teams have to test negative for seven consecutive days prior to the NCAA Tournament. The seven days overlaps with many conference tournaments. That might incentivize teams to stay home and not risk exposure to Covid-19.

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Net net, some combination of winning four of five down the stretch and an ACC Tournament win could put the Orange in. Beating Louisville on Wednesday would be a good start. A three win (assuming two wins are quad one) and two loss finish might have SU needing two ACC Tournament wins. Most teams on the bubble have at least two or three quadrant one wins as it stands right now. Syracuse has none.

There’s no exact formula here and it’s also possible there could be less bid-stealing this year if conferences decide to give its auto bid to regular season winners.

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The argument for Syracuse

Syracuse has managed to put together a 12-6 record after being placed on multiple pauses. The Orange haven’t had any quadrant one games at home this season, meaning they’ve had an imbalanced conference schedule and were forced to play better opponents on the road. The Orange have won all but one home game, which includes a win over Virginia Tech.

Syracuse has had to play the entire season without starting center Bourama Sidibe. Buddy Boeheim also missed time, which included games against Niagara, Rider and Rutgers.

The argument against Syracuse

The glaring 0-4 quadrant one record is an obvious hole in Syracuse’s résumé. The Orange haven’t beaten anyone of quality on the road and so far it has proven that it could win only at home. The strength of schedule leaves much to be desired. A loss to fellow bubble team North Carolina hurts.

That, and Syracuse just hasn’t looked the part of an NCAA Tournament caliber team. They’ve struggled to put away teams like Bryant, Northeastern, Buffalo, Georgetown, NC State and Boston College. Two losses to Pittsburgh hurt. So do uncompetitive games at Virginia and Clemson. Ultimately, Syracuse hasn’t passed the eye test.

Other bubble teams

Teams closer to the bubble generally have a better NET ranking than Syracuse. They are as follows: Loyola-Chicago (10), San Diego State (24), Drake (35), Maryland (36), Boise St. (38), St. Bonaventure (41), Seton Hall (45), Oregon (46), UCLA (49), Indiana (50), Utah State (51)

Some others don’t: Minnesota (53), Ole Miss (55), Stanford (56), North Carolina (57), St. John’s (73), Western Kentucky (75), Wichita State (77)

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What do you think though? Join in on the discussion below.