Item: Following Monday night’s 85-71 throttling at the hands of Duke in Durham, Syracuse dropped to 13-7 overall and 7-6 in the ACC, sitting oh-so-close to falling off the NCAA Tournament cliff.
During his postgame press conference after being defeated by his longtime friend Coach K and the Blue Devils for the second straight year, Jim Boeheim hinted there was to be another game to follow North Carolina Monday night in the Dome, avoiding what could have been a scheduled eight-day gap before the ACC Tournament.
“Whoever we play in the last game, will be a good team,” Boeheim said matter-of-factly.
In an announcement some 15 hours later, it turns out that it will be a team currently ahead of SU in the ACC standings, when Clemson (13-5, 7-5) completes the original home-and-home series coming into the Dome next Wednesday, March 3 (5:00 p.m. ET/ACC Network).
That’s a game that was originally scheduled for January 12 but was postponed four days earlier.
Instead, the ‘Cuse went to Carolina and played pretty well with a significant height disadvantage in an 81-75 defeat.
Give the conference credit here for squeezing in the game. Clemson was the only team not scheduled to play between the final two Saturdays of the regular season, and with the Orange playing the Tar Heels again this Monday night, there was just enough room to make another game happen.
Syracuse was already down four games on the schedule; Florida State in the Dome, Louisville home and away, and at Wake Forest which will not be played. The Clemson alteration now gives the Orange 16 ACC games out of 20.
“We’re in a very unfortunate situation,” Boeheim lamented Monday. “We’re playing good at home, most teams do, we could have had Louisville and Florida State games at home, and we didn’t get to play them. Those are big games to lose (to COVID-19 protocols). Not guaranteed you’re going to win them, but you have a better chance (at home) to win them.”
Even going 6-3 in its last nine games, lackluster Syracuse defense inviting opponents to hoist up treys from the perimeter, and an offensive flow that’s been streaky at best, has boxed in the Orange into one final stretch of games to show they belong among the 68 teams headed to Indiana in a couple of weeks.
“There’s 100 teams that could get in this (NCAA) tournament, and we haven’t had bad losses, but we haven’t had enough good wins,” Boeheim rationalized when asked Monday about the postseason. “Virginia Tech (win on Jan. 23) is not enough. Georgia Tech’s (Saturday’s opponent is 11-8, 7-6) is playing great, that will be as hard a game, or a harder game than (Duke) maybe, and Carolina’s (14-7, 8-5) playing great again. We have to do what we can now to finish.”
In fact, while Syracuse has played five games against Quad 1 opponents in the NET rankings, it hasn’t won any of them. SU is 3-1 in Quad 2 games, 6-1 versus Quad 3 opponents, and 4-0 against Quad 4 teams in its 20-game resume. Adding up the numbers has provided Boeheim with an obvious mandate to his players.
“We have to win games, it’s that simple.”