From No. 45 to No. 41…
Over the course of a week, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had moved Syracuse from, literally, the “last team in” on his “Bracket Math” article last Monday to just “in” by this past Thursday. That minor vote of confidence, however, was posted before Saturday’s egg laid at Clemson.
The moral of the story remains this: Syracuse will be on the edge of the NCAA Tournament picture the remainder of the season.
Losses like the one at the hands of the Tigers certainly will not bolster the Orange’s chances. Neither will the loss of Chris McCullough.
Depending on who you read or listen to, it will take some combination of the following things to become an at-large team in the tournament: 10 or more conference wins, at least 20 overall wins, finish in the Top 7 of the ACC and obtain a marquee victory somewhere down the line.
After winning the first four ACC conference games against the likes of Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Wake Forest (who have combined to go 2-16 in conference thus far), Syracuse stands at third place in ACC at 4-1 and an overall record of 13-5.
What does the future have in store for the rest of the regular season? It’s not all that bright.
Contests against North Carolina, Duke (twice), Louisville, Notre Dame and Virginia (who are all ranked) look like losses at this point in the season. Even a road contest against North Carolina State in the regular season looks daunting the way the Wolfpack have played as of late.
Very easily, a 4-0 start in conference could eventually become somewhere in the neighborhood of an 8-10 conference record by March. That would put them at 17-14 overall, needing three wins in the conference tournament to achieve 20 victories.
Realistically, Syracuse is somewhere between the seventh and ninth best team in the ACC. Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Notre Dame are all a step above Syracuse. North Carolina State gets a slight edge at this point. That leaves the Orangs in the same discussion as Pittsburgh and Miami of who would be next in line.
So maybe garnering a big road win will be Syracuse’s best chance to impress the selection committee. But where might that win come? Syracuse doesn’t seem to be on the same level as the Dukes, Virginias, UNC’s and Louisvilles of the world this season. Maybe Notre Dame because of familiarity and past success (Syracuse has won five of the last six matchups). A win in Raleigh would even be considered an accomplishment this season.
As it stands now, the odds are starting to stack up against the Orange. The win totals may not be there. Their place in the ACC is tenuous. And the chances to hang their hat on a big-time win are not fortuitous. And we are but seven weeks away from the ACC Tournament…so time is of the essence.
If the recipe for success in the eyes of the selection committee is made of those ingredients, the Orange are in danger of having to order takeout. Results like what may lie ahead just won’t mix to create an NCAA Tournament berth.