Syracuse is squarely on the bubble of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Will they make it? Our panel at The Juice Online weighed in…
Jim Stechschulte: IN
Bracket Matrix indexes 117 predicted brackets and, as of Thursday morning, had Syracuse averaging as the next-to-last at-large team (being listed in 69 of those brackets). Comparing the Orange with their neighbors (Providence, Xavier, Wake Forest, USC, and Vanderbilt above SU and Rhode Island, Illinois State, Kansas State, Iowa, Illinois below) on both sides of the projected bubble in a few key stats gives an informed view.
The Orange are the worst in RPI at #84, but the best in the group in BPI (30th overall), 5th of 11 at kenpom.com (47th), and 4th in Sagarin rating (37th).
SU has three wins against RPI top 25 teams, the best in the group. The cumulative winning percentage of the ten teams in SU’s neighborhood against top 25 teams is .220. Syracuse looks pretty good in comparison with a .429 win percentage.
Syracuse is 6-8 against RPI top 50 teams, tied for the most wins and owner’s of the second-best winning percentage against that group, edged out by Providence at 6-7. If you use Sagarin’s top 50 teams, the Orange are still 6-8 with Providence 6-7 and Iowa 6-8.
SU’s five losses against teams ranked 101 or lower in RPI are the most in the group, but four other teams have also lost to a team ranked 200 or worse, including Providence, who did it twice.
Regarding non-conference strength of schedule, the teams rated high in it (Wake, Xavier, Vanderbilt, Rhode Island, Illinois) are using it to prop up their RPI. They all have other bad stats, as evidenced below.
Wake is 19-13 with three wins over top-50 teams, lost head-to-head to SU, and finished a game behind them in the ACC.
Xavier is 20-12 with zero top 25 wins and is 5-6 since losing their point guard for the season.
Vanderbilt is 17-14 with a 20-point loss at RPI #250 Missouri, the worst team on their schedule, and is 20 spots below SU in BPI and 12 spots behind in Sagarin.
Rhode Island is 21-9 with 16 of their wins coming against teams outside the RPI top 100.
Illinois is 18-13 and 8-10 in a mediocre Big Ten (now 18-14 after being squashed by 20 points in the Big Ten Tournament by a Michigan team whose plane landed three hours before tip-off).
Many of the other bubble teams are yet to play (and likely lose an early round game) in their conference tournaments. Xavier takes on #18 Butler Thursday evening, Kansas State faces #9 Baylor later that night, and USC gets #3 UCLA late on the West Coast. While those are all possible NCAA berth-clinching wins, they’re also all possible dream-killling losses. Dream-killing for those teams, not for the Orange, who will get a little help with each competitor getting axed.
One side note is that, while no changes are in effect this year, the NCAA Tournament committee met earlier this year about changing or replacing RPI in its usage as an evaluation tool. The simple fact that the committee may be devaluing RPI may make a member or members subconsciously give it less strength this time around.
Bottom line? Syracuse gets in the tournament as a 10-or 11-seed.
Brad Bierman: OUT
Has there ever been a Syracuse basketball season with so many ups and downs?
From the worst home loss in the Jim Boeheim era to St. John’s of all teams, to not winning a game away from the Dome until Feb. 1, from the feeling of despair on New Year’s Day following the Boston College defeat that this team might not even make the NIT, to the thrilling buzzer-beating shot to beat Duke in which practically everyone was proclaiming “they’re in,” Orange Nation has undergone a four month emotional roller coaster.
As the torturous wait enters its second full day until 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday (and don’t look for any early Twitter leaks this year), and with this season not having anything to do in resembling last season, the prediction here is that even the ACC wins at home will not counter-balance the failure to win on the road or neutral courts, or the defeats to Connecticut, Georgetown and the aforementioned St. John’s and BC games, and the tournament committee (led by Michigan State AD Mark Hollis) will ultimately turn thumbs down on SU making its 39th NCAA appearance in 2017.
As for Boeheim’s future, there’s no way he’s ending his career on an NIT note, so if SU doesn’t make the NCAAs, it’s practically a guarantee he will return for the final season of his contract.
Steve Auger: OUT
With Selection Sunday a mere two sleeps away, it’s hard to be optimistic that Syracuse will receive a bid as their case has some pretty big holes. The Orange has dropped five of its last seven games.
Its record stands at a mere 18-14; 10-8 in the always challenging ACC. One of those league losses was by 15 points at doormat Boston College. The Eagles finished dead last at 2-16 and dropped its final 13 games. Syracuse was 1-4 against the top four seeds in the ACC Tournament with an average margin of defeat of almost 15 points.
Things weren’t much better in the out-of-conference slate as the Orange lost games to South Carolina on a neutral floor, at Wisconsin, vs. UConn at MSG, home against Georgetown, and home against St. John’s by an astonishing 33 points.
I just don’t see how victories against Florida State, Virginia, and Duke will earn Syracuse a dance invite.