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Jim Boeheim on Syracuse potentially missing the NCAA Tournament, center troubles & state of the ACC

As Syracuse has fallen below .500 in the recent weeks, the team’s NCAA Tournament chances have plummeted.

Syracuse v Miami Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team sits at 7-8 through the first 15 games of the season as the team has started 1-3 in the ACC after dropping three straight league games. That’s the worst record through 15 games for the program in 50 years.

While the non-conference schedule was challenging and there’s still plenty of season left to be played to be sure, Syracuse’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament have plummeted in recent weeks. This isn’t quite like bubble years in 2016 and 2021 with a 10-5 record or even 2018 with a 12-3 record through the first 15 games. No, the Orange would need something extraordinary to happen to earn an at-large bid.

Team Rankings gives Syracuse just a 7.5% chance to make the field of 68 — a 5.8% chance at an at-large bid and 1.7% chance of an automatic bid (winning the ACC Tournament).

On Monday’s ACC Coaches Teleconference, Boeheim was asked if he was concerned about missing the tournament. The head coach was taciturn and wouldn’t offer up much of anything other than playing the next opponent on the schedule.

“I’m concerned about playing Pittsburgh right now,” He said.

The defense has been the weak point of this team, currently ranked No. 189 in Ken Pom defensive efficiency, allowing 104.1 points per 100 possessions.

“We need to play a little bit better,” Boeheim said of Syracuse’s defense, stating his team still needs to work on “everything.”

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Syracuse Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Center trouble

Part of Syracuse’s struggles have been from the center position. Junior center Jesse Edwards has emerged for the Orange, averaging 11.8 points. 6.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. He’s ninth in the country in field goal percentage (70.7%) and will be a candidate for the league’s most improved player award.

But foul troubles have plagued the Netherlands big man as he’s fouled out in over half the team’s games.

“He’s committing bad fouls,” Boeheim said. “Really foolish fouls, going after balls they [opponents] already have, reaching twice. These are fouls that should be easily eliminated.”

Edwards has been invaluable to Syracuse. When he’s forced to sit with foul trouble it shows how vital he is to the team’s success. As part of those foul troubles, Boeheim has gone small-ball in recent games against Miami and Wake Forest, utilizing Jimmy Boeheim at center in favor of Frank Anselem. When asked if that was matchup specific or if Anselem wasn’t giving Syracuse enough, Boeheim agreed with the latter.

“Yes, that’s exactly right,” He said.

State of the league

The ACC boasts just one ranked program currently in the Duke Blue Devils. Even after Miami beat Duke inside Cameron Indoor, the Hurricanes sit just outside of the top 25 even after starting 5-0 in league play. Syracuse played Miami last week and suffered a one point defeat. Boeheim said he thinks the Hurricanes are a good team with veteran guards who can get to the basket.

“I think Miami’s a good team, real good team,” He said. “I think we played well against Miami and well against Wake Forest, we just didn’t finish the game. That’s something we’ve got to be better at.”

The league, from top to bottom, is down and projects just four to five NCAA Tournament teams this year. Having a combined 104-53 league record in the non-conference, the ACC ranks as the fifth best conference in the country behind the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Big East, respectively. Boeheim suggested the non-conference record as the reason the league is in that position, but thinks it’s still strong a a whole.

“I think we have a good conference. I think the teams are good. I think the teams are a little underrated. Looking back to last year we had a lot of doubts and teams played well in the tournament. I think we’ve got a lot of good teams and didn’t play well, particularly well, in the non-conference that put us in this position but I think we have a lot of good basketball teams,” Boeheim said.

For Syracuse basketball stories and updates, follow @NunesMagician and @JamesSzuba