Deep breath, everyone. We finally made it to the end of the 2022-2023 regular season for the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (18-11, 9-9).
But, it’s not over yet.
The good news for the Orange is their back-to-back big wins have propelled the team into “Last Four In” status in ESPN’s latest bracketology update from Friday morning. Syracuse defeated the Miami Hurricanes (the last team projected to earn a bye from the ACC) by nine points in its last home game before trouncing the Pittsburgh Panthers on the road 85-55 on Thursday evening.
Syracuse enters Sunday on a bye weekend awaiting its fate in terms of matchups in the 2023 ACC Tournament before awaiting its postseason fate during the Selection Show, which will take place on March 12 at 8 pm EST on ESPN.
With the Orange on a brief pause right now, let’s break down some of the important factors to note moving forward as Syracuse seeks its first NCAA Tournament appearance in year one of the Felisha Legette-Jack era.
Breaking down the Orange’s resume
Two factors pushed Syracuse further into postseason consideration over the past month.
The first is how good the ACC has been this season. That is the biggest driving factor in favor of Syracuse, despite having an 0-6 record against top-25 NET programs.
Nine teams in the ACC project to make the 2023 NCAA Tournament, two more than are projected for the Pac-12, Big Ten, and SEC. As a whole, the ACC is arguably the deepest out of any of the major conferences. Five of the conference’s teams rank top-20 in NET ranking, with another five teams (including Syracuse) ranked in the top-60.
The boost in competition allowed Syracuse to still finish with a decent resume, which included placing 56th in NET ranking with one ranked victory and seven wins against top-100 NET teams (including two against top-50 NET programs).
Earlier this season, I projected that no more than eight programs from the ACC would be able to make the tournament. In my mind, the math didn’t seem to work out. In fact, no more than eight teams from the ACC qualified for tournament bids in the past two decades.
That means that the ACC Tournament will have more implications than expected. Syracuse will definitely need to win at least one game while staying competitive in its next matchup. A loss in its first ACC tournament game would likely spell disaster for the Orange’s NCAA chances. Yet again, it will be another case of “survive and advance” for ‘Cuse.
How will the ACC Tournament shake out?
The good news for the Orange is that they already know their destiny heading into conference tournament play. At 9-9 against the ACC, Syracuse is locked into the eighth or ninth seed depending on how the NC State Wolfpack fare this Sunday against Pittsburgh. If NC State wins, it will secure the eight-seed and Syracuse falls to the nine-seed, and vice versa.
Earlier this season, Syracuse fell short 56-54 at home against NC State, giving up a late fourth-quarter run on New Year’s Day. The Orange will have a chance to redeem themselves against the Wolfpack in easily its biggest game of the season.
There’s two other ACC matchups to watch for that could determine both ACC tournament seeding and alter playoff chances. Both Miami and #22 North Carolina sit at 10-7 in conference play, with the Hurricanes taking on Virginia at home while the Tar Heels face #11 Duke in a big-time matchup.
Duke and Notre Dame are both tied for first place in the ACC at 14-3, while Virginia Tech sits at 13-4 but has won its last seven games. If Syracuse hypothetically beats NC State in the eight-seed versus nine-seed matchup, it will need to face one of Duke, Notre Dame, or Virginia Tech in the following round of the ACC Tournament. In my view, avoiding Notre Dame is a must, while I would favor playing either Duke or Virginia Tech.
Brace for impact, everyone. The Orange’s playoff chances are going to come down to the literal final buzzer.
TNIAAM community: with all this in mind, do we think Syracuse can sneak into the tournament? What needs to happen for the Orange down the stretch? Leave your thoughts down below.