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Syracuse men’s basketball: pivotal stretch to begin ACC play

Orange need to defend the Dome

NCAA Basketball: Niagara at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Right now the Syracuse Orange are not even close to NCAA Tournament discussion. We can speculate all we want about what this team needs to do in ACC play to get themselves in position to hear their name called on Selection Sunday, but the reality is the next month will tell us a lot.

As Dom pointed out earlier today, Syracuse (9-3, 0-1) didn’t eliminate themselves with bad non-conference losses, but they also failed to grab a Q1 win. They return to ACC play with an immediate four-game swing that could make or break NCAA chances before the spring semester begins. It’s too early to worry about where the Orange sit in the NET, but it’s not too soon to look at their opponents, and the opportunity each presents.

The Pitt Panthers come to the Dome on Saturday afternoon. Pitt is currently 39th in the NET which makes this the second Q2 game for the Orange (Oregon was the first). The Panthers have built a 9-3 record on the back of Q3/4 wins but the metrics like them and it makes this next game an important one for Syracuse. The two schools will face off twice in the next month, and it feels like the Orange need a split at minimum.

After hosting Pitt, Syracuse heads to Duke to take on the Blue Devils in a Q1 game. The Orange have had some success in Cameron Indoor Stadium and grabbing a major road win would certainly result in a big jump in the NET rankings. Quadrant records are important in March, but it’s always a good thing to show the committee that you can win away from home.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

For some reason, the Orange get a week off before they welcome Boston College to the Dome. The Eagles are on the bubble between Q2 and 3 right now which means a win won’t do a lot for Syracuse, but a loss could be damaging. If there’s a “must-win” game in this stretch, it’s likely this one.

The stretch concludes with a trip to North Carolina for another Q1 road game. Syracuse will get two games against UNC this year and like the Duke game, a road win in January would provide a big boost to the metrics.

I know fans don’t want to hear this, but if Syracuse finds themselves 10-5 (and 2-3 in the ACC) at the end of this stretch, it won’t be the end of the world. Less than a split over the next four will mean another winter where the Orange have to start climbing out of a hole. However, taking three (or all four) in this stretch will give fans reason to start paying more attention to bracketology.