It’s the cliché of all sports clichés. When tournament time comes around every March, each team starts with a clean slate. Everyone is 0-0 in a single-elimination tournament and what was accomplished prior matters not, at least as it relates to the win-or-go-home scenario that comes baked into tournament play.
Of course, tournament play isn’t exactly a factory setting. Results are a byproduct of skill, among myriad other factors. Clean slates ignore seeding as well as overall team strengths and weaknesses. But Syracuse is hoping to right its 15-16 record in the ACC Tournament nonetheless.
The Orange will begin tournament play at noon on Wednesday against Florida State, an unenviable draw in the dreaded 8/9 game where Syracuse will look to hard reset.
“It’s a new season. Post-season completely starts over,” Jimmy Boeheim said following the defeat to Miami on Saturday. “We’re going to have to reset and we’re just going to keep fighting like we have been.”
With exceptions of Auburn, Villanova and both matchups with Duke, Syracuse has been competitive in every game it’s played. Still, losses have mounted and there are reasons for Syracuse’s proclivity to collapse in late-game scenarios. That doesn’t exactly bode well for post-season play.
Syracuse hasn’t stopped competing though. It would’ve been easy for this team to quit given how this season has gone, coupled with season-ending injuries to Jesse Edwards and Benny Williams.
Symir Torrence has missed time too with a sprained knee ligament after the first meeting with Duke and a hard hit to the head in the second meeting against the Blue Devils that caused him to enter concussion protocol. His status for the Florida State game is uncertain, but he traveled with the team on Monday.
In spite of all that, Syracuse has still fought hard and competed in every game.
“We’re a good team. We’re going to go down there with confidence and just go out swinging. We have nothing to lose at this point. But you gotta flip the switch obviously and get ready for Wednesday,” Buddy Boeheim said.
“Hopefully a lot of Syracuse fans still come and believe in us,” Cole Swider added. “We’re going to keep going. Hopefully we can end our season on a high note.”
Syracuse will have a tough matchup on Wednesday with Florida State, a team picked in the preseason to finish second in the league. The Seminoles have won six games by one point this season. Florida State has been beset by injuries, but returns a few key guys including Anthony Polite and RayQuan Evans.
“They have size, they always have three or four seven-footers that are always tough against the zone, they have lob threats,” Buddy said. “They have shooters that come in, [Wyatt] Wilkes can really shoot it. They play hard on defense. They have ten guys so they’re going to be fresh. They’re going to be playing with a lot of energy.”
The approach for Syracuse won’t change much. The Orange will play hard and compete, looking to take advantage of Florida State’s malfunctioning three point defense. On the other end, Syracuse will need to force the Seminoles into outside shots like it did the first time around.
Should Syracuse advance past Florida State, a team it split with 1-1 in the conference slate, the Orange will have a date with the No. 1 seeded Duke. The Blue Devils come off a home defeat to North Carolina in Mike Krzyzewski’s final game inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.
No doubt Duke will come in looking to avenge that loss. Syracuse would have to be near flawless to win that game.
“I think we’re a top team, really, in this league. Besides Duke we’ve played everyone to the wire. We can’t beat Duke unless we have an out of this world game, honestly. They’re just too good for the zone. They’re one of the best teams in the country,” Buddy said.