Item: As our colleague Jim Stechschulte rightfully pointed out before the road loss to Duke last weekend, a .500 conference record plus at least a first-ever ACC Tournament win next week in Brooklyn playing on the opening day among the five lowest seeds, still isn’t close to any sort of guarantee to propel Syracuse (18-11, 7-9) into one of the 36 at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. There are a handful of teams with equivalent or slightly better resumes during a season in which the “best” Orange wins for NCAA consideration have come at Miami and Louisville and home versus Virginia Tech, none of whom were Top 25 ranked at the time of the SU victory.
It certainly didn’t used to be this way for Syracuse basketball, watching the NCAA Tournament as an outsider. In fact, in the five decade Jim Boeheim regime not making the tournament always stood out because of enjoying the spoils of success built on the base of 100 wins over Boeheim’s first four seasons, and only two non-NCAA appearances in his first 16 years guiding the program.
Dating back to consecutive NCAA Tournament misses in 1980-81 (22-12 but just 6-8 in the Big East and despite an epic three overtime win against Villanova to capture the conference tournament) and ‘81-’82, it wasn’t until the NCAA probation season of 1992-93 that SU didn’t participate in March Madness, and they’ve only missed out on going dancing six other seasons since, with five NITs and the program’s second NCAA-related postseason ban in 2015.
This year could mark only the third time in Boeheim’s 42 seasons that SU has played successive years in the NIT.
Now a road victory against Boston College (5-3 at home including wins over Duke, Florida State and Miami) on Wednesday night (9:00 p.m. ET / ACC Regional Sports Networks), a home win against No. 18 Clemson Saturday afternoon (2:00 p.m. ET / ACC Network), and at the minimum an opening round ACC Tournament win are necessities, along with some other conference foes and “bubble” teams stumbling, to gain a little Orange love from the selection committee.
As it stands now a 3-1 finish would put SU at 21-12, probably jostling with the likes of Miami and Louisville, two teams it beat on the road, for the 9th or more unlikely 10th ACC bid into the field.
First on the agenda will be the significant challenge of completing a home-and-home sweep of Boston College. After a solid defensive effort against Duke, but missing too many shots to beat the Blue Devils zone, SU will need to resuscitate its offense by replicating its best shooting (60.4%) and balanced attack performance (five players in double figures) of the season when it defeated the Eagles in the Dome 81-63 on Jan. 24.
Take care of the BC business, and achieving a first win over a ranked team in the Clemson home finale, will go a long way towards providing this team with momentum on route to Brooklyn, and what we think is the need to make it to the ACC quarterfinal round to see the Syracuse name in the NCAA bracket on Selection Sunday.