In the latest incarnation of ESPN’s Bracketology, Syracuse is among Joe Lunardi’s “Last Four Byes,” along with former Big East Conference foes Connecticut, Cincinnati and Providence. Strangely enough, the projection is for Syracuse as the 10th seed to face off against the seventh seeded Friars in the West Region.
There’s plenty of change ahead, especially with one game to go in the regular season for most teams, and then their conference tournaments. With all that said, here is Syracuse fan’s guide to watching games this Saturday, taking games from various conferences from around the country in chronological order:
NOON – Cincinnati: 21-8 (11-5 AAC), RPI: 51, SOS: 100. Next Game: Saturday at noon against No. 24 SMU (TV: CBS). CONSEQUENCES: As mentioned earlier, the Bearcats are in the same category as Syracuse in the “last four byes.” The matchup is an interesting one, as Larry Brown’s SMU team will not play in the postseason, and this will essentially be its championship game. The Mustangs are the AAC’s highest ranked team (No. 12 RPI) and a win would cover up a loss against Houston (RPI 76) on Thursday night.
2 p.m. – Syracuse: 19-11 (9-8 ACC). RPI: 52. Strength of Schedule: 39. Next Game: Saturday at 2 p.m. vs. Florida State (ESPN2). CONSEQUENCES: A win against the ‘Noles would give Syracuse two milestones: A 20 win season and 10 conference wins. FSU, currently sits at No. 71 in the RPI, and a loss, while not completely devastating to the Orange, would place some added pressure in the ACC Tournament.
4 p.m. – Alabama: 17-11 (8-8 SEC), RPI: 48. Strength of Schedule: 28. Next Game: At Georgia on Saturday at 4 p.m. (TV: ESPN2, immediately following Syracuse v. FSU). CONSEQUENCES: It’s a testament to Avery Johnson’s coaching ability that the Crimson Tide are even in the conversation considering that the program has had exactly one tournament appearance since 2006. Their game against the Bulldogs (RPI: 88) is a similar game to what SU has against FSU: Two similarly situated conference opponents that can beat each other on any given day. A loss to Georgia isn’t going to eliminate Alabama, but it sure would make the SEC Tournament that much more critical.
5 p.m. – Tulsa: 19-10 (11-6 AAC), RPI: 44. Strength of Schedule: 40. Next Game: At home against USF on Saturday at 5 p.m. (TV: ESPNU). CONSEQUENCES: Tulsa did itself no favors with a brutal loss against Memphis, which has an RPI of 155. A loss against USF (RPI 202) would torpedo the Golden Hurricane’s chances.
8 p.m. – Michigan: 20-10 (10-7 Big 10), RPI: 57. Strength of Schedule: 69. Next Game: Saturday at 8 p.m. against No. 16 Iowa (TV: BTN). CONSEQUENCES: Iowa, in the words of Joe Namath, has been “strug-ga-ling” recently, having lost four straight games. A quality win like that could catapult the Wolverines off the bubble and into the NCAA Tournament. Add to that, the Wolverines have lost just three times at home this season.
Alternatively at 8 p.m. – St. Bonaventure: 20-7 (12-4 A10), RPI: 35. Strength of Schedule: 88. Next Game: At St. Louis on Saturday at 8 p.m. (TV: Fox Sports Midwest). CONSEQUENCES: The Bonnies find themselves on the bubble despite having nine of its last 10 games. How? Well, look no further than the strength of schedule. Syracuse handled them in November, and that was really St. Bonaventure’s only true test of the non-conference schedule. St. Louis becomes a must win, considering they are ranked 200th in RPI.
9:30 p.m. Oregon State: 17-10 (8-8 Pac-12), RPI: 28, Strength of Schedule: 6. Next Game: At UCLA on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. (TV: PAC12). CONSEQUENCES: UCLA up until recently was a bubble team, and it has the RPI (88) to reflect that. Nothing on Oregon State’s wins list particularly jumps out at you, especially now that USC (who Oregon State defeated in January when the Trojans were ranked) has been fading recently. But a win against UCLA and a win in the Pac-12 Tournament would make the Beavers tough to turn down.