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Syracuse men’s basketball bubble watch entering championship week

How are things going for the Orange as all teams enter the final stretch before Selection Sunday?

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

As we’ve sort of gotten used to by now, it all comes down to this week for the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team.

Syracuse enters championship week at 15-8 overall and 49th in NET rating, with a 1-6 record in Quad 1 games and 5-1 vs. Quad 2. they have no truly bad losses, though three wins are against Quad 4 schools. The Orange are also 2-7 away from the Dome Stadium... not an ideal place to be. But also a situation they can manage to correct this week in Greensboro.

According to most bracketologists, ‘Cuse is currently on the outside looking in. Bracket Matrix shows SU included in just a handful of brackets right now, and using their setup, we’d be the first team out (a familiar feeling for those that recall 2017). While he’s rarely that accurate, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Orange among the first four out — behind Utah State, and ahead of Saint Louis and Seton Hall. SB Nation’s Chris Dobbertean, a far more accurate prognosticator, also had the Orange second among the “first four out” (behind Saint Louis in this case).

Before Syracuse faces off with NC State in the ACC Tournament, we’ll say that they at least need to win that game to put themselves into the field, though ideally, they’re also knocking off Virginia in the quarterfinals to make things a lot simpler. This thing doesn’t entirely depend on them, however. Because our place is far from secure, we also need to worry about what else is happening on the bubble to gauge SU’s chances.

First off, here are the teams that are almost assuredly in, so don’t worry about what they’re doing anymore:

Next, we’ll actually dig into the teams that appear “above” us on the bubble at this moment.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Louisville Courier Journal-USA TODAY NETWORK

Louisville Cardinals (13-6, 51st in NET, 4-4 road record, 1-5 vs. Quad 1)

This one could’ve been settled on the court, had both matchups between these teams not been cancelled. Louisville’s resume isn’t that much better than Syracuse’s, aside from the extra road victories, so it’s important for them that they advance further than the Orange in Greensboro (and important for us that they don’t). The Cards’ first game in the ACC Tournament is against the winner of Duke/Boston College — a game that wouldn’t currently get them another Quad 1 win.

Colorado State Rams (16-5, 50th in NET, 4-4 road record, 2-3 vs. Quad 1)

CSU has both more road wins and more Quad 1 wins than Syracuse and Louisville, but won’t gain anything from a quarterfinals game against the winner of Fresno State vs. New Mexico. Their best bet to continue boosting the resume is a possible semifinal matchup with Utah State (we’ll get there, but 47th in NET). We’re rooting for the Rams.

Boise State Broncos (17-7, 43rd in NET, 4-6 road record, 2-4 vs. Quad 1)

Boise’s numbers are better than SU’s, though they’ve also been in a little bit of a freefall of late, with three straight losses. A loss to Nevada in the MWC quarters could knock them out of the tournament, really. The Broncos probably need to beat Nevada and look competent vs. San Diego State in the semis.

Xavier Musketeers (13-7, 57th in NET, 2-5 road record, 1-2 vs. Quad 1)

On top of having a ton of games postponed, Xavier’s also been in tougher shape since returning — going just 2-5 in their last seven. Beating Butler in round one does nothing for them, though knocking off Creighton after that could do a lot more. The Musketeers already own a win over Creighton, which is a better win than anything SU currently has.

Drake Bulldogs (23-4, 47th in NET, 9-2 road record, 1-2 vs. Quad 1)

Drake’s season wrapped up on Sunday, with a loss to Loyola in the Missouri Valley title game. Getting to the championship game and losing to a top-20 squad, however, is potentially enough for them to make the field unless chaos unfolds below them.

NCAA Basketball: Utah State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

And who are we directly battling/rooting against as Syracuse fights for what’s a couple spots at best.

Utah State Aggies (17-7, 48th in NET, 5-3 road record, 2-4 vs. Quad 1)

We noted Utah State a bit above, but the Aggies do have two wins over SDSU to their name. Like CSU, a quarterfinal win over a lesser team doesn’t do anything. An upset over Colorado State would. It would be ideal for Syracuse if they lost before the MWC championship game.

Saint Louis Billikens (14-6, 44th in NET, 1-4 road record, 2-2 vs. Quad 1)

The Billikens probably needed to beat St. Bonaventure in the A-10 Tournament to secure their place in the field a bit better. Now, they’re likely waiting it out until Selection Sunday with teams potentially playing their way past them.

Seton Hall Pirates (13-12, 58th in NET, 6-7 road record, 3-7 vs. Quad 1)

The Pirates have collected a ton of losses — but get mention here because of the collection of Quad 1 wins and numerous road victories. Seton Hall’s lost four straight going into the Big East Tournament. A loss to St. John’s in the upcoming 4-5 game would seal their fate, and bolster the case of St. John’s (more below). If they can beat the Red Storm, they’re in better shape, but potentially need to knock off Villanova to be sure.

Memphis Tigers (15-6, 52nd in NET, 4-2 road record, 0-2 vs. Quad 1)

Memphis is definitely out of the field right now, and won’t gain anything from beating the winner of UCF and ECU. They’ll need to beat Houston in the AAC semifinals to even have a shot. That would also be their first Quad 1 win in only a handful of opportunities.

SMU Mustangs (11-4, 56th in NET, 5-2 road record, 0-3 vs. Quad 1)

Under normal circumstances, SMU would be good enough to make the tournament, but the Mustangs now haven’t played a game in a month and don’t have the body of work most bubble teams do. Beating Cincinnati in the AAC quarterfinals would be part one of fixing that. They may need to win that game and upset Wichita State to start any real conversation of inclusion.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss Rebels (15-11, 53rd in NET, 5-6 road record, 3-4 vs. Quad 1)

Ole MIss is here because of some nice wins and wins on the road, but they have more work to do. They’ll need to beat LSU in the quarterfinals to start a conversation. A second upset over Arkansas in the semis would be needed to really make a bid a reality, and that still requires others on the bubble to stall.

St. John’s Red Storm (16-10, 68th in NET, 4-6 road record, 2-6 vs. Quad 1)

St. John’s has ground to make up NET-wise, but was on an impressive roll until very recently. Beating Seton Hall in the Big East quarterfinals jumps them over the Pirates, but an upset over Villanova is required to make this real. Still probably need others to falter, though if they beat ‘Nova they’re also one more win from stealing a bid anyway with a conference championship.

NC State Wolfpack (13-9, 66nd in NET, 5-5 road record, 1-6 vs. Quad 1)

Syracuse could nip this one right in the bud by beating the Pack in the ACC Tournament. They basically have the same road to a bid that the Orange have after that. A win over Virginia could put them, though another after that would secure a spot.


We’ll see how this group — and potential chaos elsewhere — changes over time throughout the week. Most important for us, obviously, is what happens to Syracuse, though. And with the Orange almost assuredly out of the field right now, it’s unlikely we have another look at the bubble like this ‘til Thursday, and only if SU can beat the Pack.