Where does Syracuse basketball stand on the NCAA bubble?

Frank Howard looks to drive during Syracuse's game against Clemson. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Over the last month, we’ve seen the Syracuse basketball team lose five of its remaining nine games, culminating with Wednesday’s loss to North Carolina in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Among those nine games were a road win over Miami, a close loss to North Carolina at home, a 15-point loss at Boston College, a home win against a ranked Clemson team and a drubbing at the hands of the Tar Heels. Inconsistency has been the Orange’s biggest consistency.

Thus, we will take one final look at whether the Orange have any sort of chance of cracking the field of 68 as brackets are released this Sunday.

If you’ve played along at home with this exercise before, you’ll know we start by using ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology as a reference point. After Wednesday’s action, Lunardi had nine ACC teams in the tournament, same as a month ago.

Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson and Miami all get free passes in this exercise, as all are a 6-seed or better in Lunardi’s field. We eliminate Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Pittsburgh, none of which had more than 13 wins for the season.

So, of the seven remaining teams, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Louisville are currently in the field of 68. Louisville is among the “Last Four In.” Notre Dame is in the group known as the “First Four Out” and Syracuse is the only team in the “Next Four Out.” Boston College is the only team among that group that appears nowhere in Lunardi’s projections.

For a closer look at the tale of the tape, we can look at all the indexes across the country to see who has a case to make the tournament field.

  • ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index (BPI) – the BPI predicts future performance. The seven teams in our discussion rank in that poll, ranging from 30th to 73rd, with Syracuse sixth on the list at 52nd. A month ago, they were also in 52nd in the BPI.
  • Strength of Schedule – Ranging from 29th to 52nd, the ACC still maps out as one of (if not THE) toughest conference in America in 2017-18. Syracuse checks in 4th among the seven teams with the 43rd toughest SOS in the nation. With games in the last month against North Carolina (twice), Duke, Clemson and Miami, it stands to reason that the Orange climbed 15 spots in this poll since we last checked.
  • KenPom – Ken Pomeroy’s analytical power poll ranks every team in the country. The seven ACC teams in questions rank anywhere from 30th (Notre Dame) to 73rd (Boston College). Syracuse checks in at 55th, good for only sixth out of the seven teams.
  • RPI – Once again, this is Syracuse’s best category. The Orange are second among the seven teams, with the 41st best RPI, four better than last month. Louisville still leads this category, coming in at 38th in the RPI. It’s customary to state that the 2015-16 Syracuse team made the NCAA Tournament with an RPI ranking of 74, the lowest ever RPI ranking for an at-large bid into the tournament.
  • Quadrant 1 wins – we’re adding this one to mix. A big deal has been made about “Quadrant 1” wins this season. The new metric defines a “Quadrant 1” win as a win:
    • at home against 1-30 in the RPI
    • on neutral court against 1-50 in the RPI
    • on the road against 1-75 in the RPI

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Among the group, Florida State has the most with six Quadrant 1 wins. Notre Dame and Boston College had the least with just two. Syracuse finished tied for 4th with three Quadrant 1 wins.

Now, using the Dumbed-Down Dagostino Index (or the triple D, perhaps?!?!), we rank each team 1-7 in each poll, with 1 being the best and 7 being the worst. After totaling up the ranks from each poll, we get an aggregate total, with the low score winning.

Louisville: 11
Virginia Tech: 11
Florida State: 15
Notre Dame: 21
Syracuse: 22
NC State: 23
Boston College: 34

Louisville once again takes the crown (or at least a share of it this time), as it was the best-rated team (using the DDD) last month, too. Interestingly enough, though, the four teams Lunardi included in his field on Bracketology were Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida State and NC State. The Wolfpack and Hokies were given 9-seeds. Florida State was a 10-seed and Louisville was an 11-seed.

NC State becomes one of the interesting team here. In our exercise, they finish 6th among the seven teams, one spot behind Syracuse.

The other team of note is Notre Dame, who was in a 7-game losing skid in February. Since then, the Irish had rattled off seven wins in 10 games before losing to Duke in the ACC quarterfinals. Getting Bonzie Coulson back from injury had the Irish playing some of its best basketball of the season.

Looking at the basic regular season conference standings, here’s how they shake out:

NC State (11-7)
Virginia Tech (10-8)
Florida Sate (9-9)
Louisville (9-9)
Notre Dame (8-10)
Syracuse (8-10)
Boston College (7-11)

Lunardi’s teams hold serve in this group, all finishing as the top four among the seven teams in the conference standings.

It appears, no matter how you slice it, the Orange fall short of the Hokies, Seminoles and Cardinals. The win over Louisville on the road, though, may serve as a potential feather in the cap.

When it comes to NC State, after looking at all the indexes, Syracuse actually comes out ahead of NC State. However, the Wolfpack won the only matchup with the Orange and own a better record both in conference and overall.

And Notre Dame won the head-to-head matchup, has been playing better down the stretch and got its best player back in time for the stretch run that makes them look like a Top 25 team again.

Any way you look at it, it’s tough to envision a scenario in which Syracuse gets into the tournament. Despite 20 wins, they seem to fall just short across the board. A losing record in conference, only one win in the ACC Tournament and not enough Quadrant 1 wins to really make a mark.

History has shown Lunardi can be wrong when it comes to Syracuse being in or out of the tournament. Heck, he even said the other night he had given up answering Syracuse questions for Lent. But, with no more games left to play, the Orange will have to sit around until Sunday and hope the selection committee sees something in them that our “scientific” look doesn’t see.

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Matt Dagostino
About Matt Dagostino 64 Articles
Matt currently works as an on-air talent and producer for Turner Sports in Atlanta, where he is from. Among his responsibilities are voicing over highlights for NCAA.com, NBA.com, WNBA.com, and PGA.com. He has also served as an associate producer for TNT’s coverage of the NBA Playoffs and TBS’s coverage of the MLB Postseason. Matt also has experience as a minor league baseball play-by-play announcer and as a PA announcer in D-I college athletics. Matt graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @MattDags28.