Syracuse, finding itself squarely on the bubble in its quest for an NCAA Tournament bid, is seemingly one upset win away from securing an at-large bid.
The Orange defeated Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC Tournament, 73-64, setting up a clash with North Carolina on Wednesday at 9 p.m. A win against the Tar Heels, who have been ranked in the top 15 for much of the season, could pair with SU’s win over No. 18 Clemson as the two wins that push the Orange over the top.
Last year, the Orange defeated Duke, Virginia and Florida State—all ranked in the top 10 at the time—at home, but still missed the NCAA Tournament.
While this year’s team doesn’t have a top 10 win on its resume, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim feels that in many ways, SU has a better case this year.
“We didn’t win on the road last year; we won on the road this year,” Boeheim said. “And this year we won a good — obviously Clemson is good, and we’ve won games, but we won at Miami and at Louisville, which are two hard places to win, and I think that gives us a little bit of boost from where we were last year.”
Syracuse’s non-conference losses were a dooming factor last year, as well. The Orange lost to old foes Georgetown and UConn, and were humiliated by St. John’s at home by 33 points.
This year, the Orange lost just two-nonconference games to NCAA Tournament teams, while taking care of business against the Hoyas and Huskies.
“I think the whole thing with the tournament is we just are going to keep playing, and we had a great strength of schedule this year, much better than last year,” Boeheim said. “There’s a lot of teams that look good. It’s just one of those things that’s going to be tough decisions.”
A win against the Tar Heels would make the decision much easier, and would put Syracuse back as a contender. For those who aren’t keeping track, Syracuse is 4-2 (Against the spread) in its last six games. UNC has six straight up wins in its last eight, but just went through two losses. These sites to bet on March Madness are going to be crucial if the Tar Heels take another loss–you’ll need to brush up on the rest of the teams.
“The committee is just going to — they’re going to make whatever decision they make, and we’re just going to try to play the best we can,” Boeheim said. “And I think we’ve got a good basketball team, and I think we can compete, and we’ve proven that we can compete with anybody.”