What. A. Turnaround.
Nearly a month ago, the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (17-11, 8-9) looked to be on the outside looking in with little shot at sneaking into the 2023 NCAAW Tournament. Injuries, a brutal slate of games and other obstacles appeared to doom the Orange before its late-season surge could even start.
And now, head coach Felisha Legette-Jack has ‘Cuse on the cusp of a tournament appearance in her first season with the program.
For the first time all season, ESPN’s bracketology update from Tuesday morning projects the Orange to finish as a “Last Four In” program with just one regular season game left to go along with the 2023 ACC Tournament. Syracuse joins Mississippi State, Princeton, and West Virginia as the last four teams projected to sneak into the tournament.
For most of the season, Syracuse was in the outer periphery of tournament consideration before projecting to be among the handful of teams to just miss the postseason. After a few consecutive weeks in “First Four Out” status, the Orange are now just a few weeks away from its first tournament berth in two seasons.
As I’ve stated multiple times throughout the season, the ACC has proved to be the dominant conference in the NCAAW. In the latest bracketology update from ESPN, a whopping nine ACC programs are projected to make the 2023 Tournament. For context, no conference has more than seven teams represented in the projection.
To an extent, Syracuse’s leap from “First Four Out” to “Last Four In” status comes as the Orange have boosted its resume with some promising performances. Syracuse is 3-2 in its last five games, including wins over #22 North Carolina and Miami while remaining competitive against #10 Notre Dame and #23 Florida State in close road losses. In other words, Syracuse has proven it can handle the ACC’s best of the best consistently.
Syracuse will have a chance to finish .500 in conference play when it takes on the Pittsburgh Panthers (10-17, 3-13) on the road Thursday night. After that, the Orange will suit up in the 2023 ACC Tournament with its postseason hopes on the line in Greensboro.
I’ll have a detailed analysis on the Orange’s pathway to the tournament out on Wednesday, but let’s take a moment to acknowledge FLJ and company for completely turning around a program that looked to be in total disarray. In one season, the Orange transformed from ACC basement dweller to a competitive program few teams don’t want to suit up against in the postseason.
Buckle up, folks. It’s going to be a crazy next couple of weeks.