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Syracuse men’s basketball: what do the Orange need to do to make the NCAA Tournament?

Taking a look at where Syracuse ranks in the NET and what is has to do to build an NCAA Tournament résumé.

LSU v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

For those that might’ve missed it, the first NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings dropped on Monday. After its win against Cornell, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball program currently ranks 112 in the NET, leaving plenty of work to do if this program wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons. Syracuse has not missed the NCAA Tournament in three consecutive seasons since the early 1970s.

The NET rankings are in their sixth season after replacing the RPI in 2018-19, used as the main sorting tool — but not the only metric — used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee to evaluate teams. The NET uses more expansive criteria than the RPI, including game results, scoring margin, game location, offensive and defensive efficiency as well as the quality of wins and losses. Each individual game is weighted equally.

Games are categorized by the quadrant system where neutral and away games are favorably baked-in by NET. Those quadrants below, with the most valuable being quadrant one and second most valuable being quadrant two, so on and so forth:

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 135-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353

Here’s an early look at Syracuse’s team sheet, the reference sheet the tournament Selection Committee uses on Selection Sunday:

Syracuse’s team sheet 12/6/2023 | via warrennolan.com

Syracuse has no bad losses to this point, but no marquee wins either. Its best win came on Tuesday against Cornell which sits in quadrant two for now. NET rankings are fluid, meaning opponents can jump between quadrants up until Selection Sunday. For example, the LSU game for example is Syracuse’s worst win from a résumé standpoint in quadrant four but if the Tigers move up three spots (163 to 160) or better in the NET it would move to quadrant three.

Syracuse’s record by quadrant:

Q1: 0-3
Q2: 1-0
Q3: 3-0
Q4: 1-0

So what does Syracuse have to do from here?

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

If Syracuse is able to split between Georgetown and Oregon and take care of business against Niagara, the Orange would enter conference play at 8-4. If Syracuse beat Georgetown and lost to Oregon, it would still be devoid of a signature win and even if Syracuse beats Georgetown and Oregon it still won’t have a quadrant one win before conference play.

While it’s hard to know what the strength of the bubble will be this early on, going .500 in conference play — under the presumed 2-1 finish to non-conference play — would bring Syracuse to 18-13 before the ACC Tournament. Of course, it depends on who Syracuse beats and where those wins are coming from. But, using past seasons as an example, assuming Syracuse knocks off at least a couple quadrant one opponents and stacks quadrant two wins while avoiding quadrant four losses, that would likely place the Orange just on the outside of the bubble looking in, yet still in the hunt with 18 wins heading into the ACC Tournament. Anything short of that and Syracuse would be looking at needing to win the ACC Tournament to be a part of March Madness.

If Syracuse gets to 19 wins by going 11-9 in ACC play, it might need a win or two in the conference tournament to feel good and with 20 wins (12-8 in ACC play), well, you get the idea.

As it stands now, Syracuse has five quadrant one and seven quadrant two games left on its schedule. The Orange will need a handful of those. See Syracuse’s remaining schedule with opponent NET ranking and respective quadrants as it stands currently:

Click to enlarge

What’d we miss and what do you think? Jump in on the discussion in the comment section below.