Syracuse enters Tournament Week with their NCAA hopes up in the air. The aim of this article, and those that will follow this week under the same umbrella, is to help give those hopes a sense of gravity.
Around 100 different websites offer NCAA tournament field projections. Joe Lunardi from ESPN is one of those bracketologists and, by weight of him being the most widely-recognized one and normally getting the field right, his projections will provide the basis for the daily answer to the question: Which games should Syracuse fans pay attention to because they affect SU’s chances at the tournament?
Here are the 8-12 seeds and teams listed as the eight closest, but not in, the tournament in Lunardi’s current field:
- 8 seeds – Colorado, Texas Tech, Saint Joseph’s, USC
- 9 seeds – Syracuse, Providence, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt
- 10 seeds – Saint Mary’s, Butler, VCU, South Carolina
- 11 seeds – Temple, Monmouth, Connecticut/Oregon State, Cincinnati
- 12 seeds – San Diego State, Michigan/St Bonaventure, Valparaiso, Arkansas-Little Rock
- first four out – Gonzaga, Tulsa, Ohio State, LSU
- next four out – Alabama, Florida, George Washington, Washington
These 30 teams are the focus because they are the ones in closest competition with the Orange for at-large bids. We’ll split them up by conference to make tracking them easier, as well as note if they are in Lunardi’s field by being the expected conference champion.
- American: Temple (leads conference), Cincinnati, Connecticut, Tulsa
- Atlantic 10: St Bonaventure, VCU, Saint Joseph’s, George Washington
- ACC: Pittsburgh, Syracuse
- Big 12: Texas Tech
- Big East: Providence, Butler
- Big Ten: Michigan, Ohio State
- Horizon: Valparaiso (leads conference)
- MAAC: Monmouth (leads conference)
- Mountain West: San Diego State (leads conference)
- PAC-12: Colorado, USC, Oregon State, Washington
- SEC: Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Florida, LSU, Alabama
- Sun Belt: Arkansas-Little Rock (leads conference)
- WCC: Saint Mary’s (leads conference), Gonzaga
Monday is a light work day for this group.
In the Horizon semifinals, Valpo plays Green Bay (7:00pm Eastern, ESPNU). Syracuse fans can pretty much ignore this one. No other Horizon team is a threat for an at-large bid and 19 of Valpo’s 26 wins are against teams with an RPI below 100 (they have one win over a top-50 RPI team). The conference will get one bid and one bid only.
At the same time, the MAAC Championship game will be played between Monmouth and Iona (7:00pm ESPN). Monmouth has poor strength of schedule for an at-large bid, but two top-50 wins on the year (Notre Dame, USC). SU fans should hope that America’s most popular group of walk-on celebration artists has a lot to celebrate tonight because eliminating a potential threat is best for the Orange.
Both WCC teams to keep tabs on are in semifinal action. Saint Mary’s is the top seed, playing Pepperdine (9:00pm Eastern, ESPN) and Gonzaga is the second seed, playing BYU (11:30pm Eastern, ESPN2). Fans of the Orange should be fans of the Gaels and the Cougars. (That’s Saint Mary’s and BYU, respectively.) A loss by Gonzaga likely bumps them from the NCAA Tournament equation. The Zags’ RPI is 66, strength of schedule is 120, and they are 24-7… with an 0-5 record against the top 50 in RPI and 16 wins against teams rated 201 or lower by RPI. Saint Mary’s winning the WCC Tournament ensures the conference gets only one bid.
There will be a new article each day to reflect any changes to Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament hopes.