Syracuse basketball loses, but NCAA Tournament bubble far from burst

Feb 20, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange guard Buddy Boeheim (35) shoots over Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dane Goodwin (23) in the first half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

While Syracuse is still smarting from its heartbreaking 72-69 loss at the buzzer against Virginia in the ACC quarterfinals, Thursday still brought plenty of good news for the Orange and its NCAA Tournament hopes.

Let’s start with Syracuse’s resume as it currently stands. The Orange started Thursday 39th in NET, which was up 10 spots after routing fellow bubble team NC State in the second round. Following the loss to Virginia, the Orange might slip a bit, but the Cavaliers were also the top ranked ACC team in NET (14), so don’t expect SU to slip too much.

In terms of the quadrants, Syracuse is 1-7 in Q1, 5-1 in Q2, 7-1 in Q3 and 3-0 in Q4 as of Thursday, but the good news is that those numbers will almost certainly change for the better after Thursday’s action.

Starting with the good news:

  • North Carolina, ranked 32nd in NET, toppled Virginia Tech in the ACC quarterfinals. Syracuse defeated the Tar Heels last week at home, and a Quadrant 1 win is awarded to home wins against top 30 NET teams. Expect UNC to be a top 30 NET team with the win, giving Syracuse its second Q1 win of its resume.
  • Buffalo defeated Miami (OH) in the quarterfinals and will face Akron later today in the MAC semifinals. The Bulls are currently 76th in NET, and even a slight uptick would vault them into the top 75, which would award Syracuse another Q2 win as opposed to a Q3 win as it currently stands.
  • It’s hard to swallow, but Syracuse fans should be rooting for Georgetown. The Hoyas are ranked 85th in NET, and should see a significant rise after they upset Villanova (ranked 12th in NET) in the Big East Tournament. That might be enough to bump Georgetown into the top 75, changing a Q3 win into another Q2 win.

That means, when the new NET rankings come out on Friday, Syracuse should be 2-7 in Q1, 6-1 in Q2, 5-1 in Q3 and 3-0 in Q4 games.

Now, the record doesn’t mean much in isolation, so let’s provide some context.

As of Thursday, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had the Orange as his last team in the NCAA field in his “Last Four In” category. The other three teams that shared that category were Drake, Boise State and Colorado State (more on the latter two below).

» Related: Syracuse loses to Virginia on heartbreaking buzzer beater

Here’s how they stack up, though I updated Syracuse’s resume to reflect my projected resume on Friday:

Team Quadrant 1 Quadrant 2 Quadrant 3 Quadrant 4
*Syracuse (39) 2-7 6-1 5-1 3-0
Colorado St. (50) 2-3 1-2 3-0 10-0
Boise St. (43) 2-4 2-2 4-0 9-1
Drake (45) 1-2 5-0 6-2 11-0

Syracuse appears to have the best resume out of the four schools. Not only has SU challenged itself more than the other three teams, having played nine Q1 games, the Orange also owns the most Q2 wins and has played the least against “cupcakes” in Q4.

Here was the rest of the good news for the Orange from the bubble on Thursday:

  • Duke was forced to forfeit its game against FSU following positive COVID-19 tests. The Blue Devils were already in Lunardi’s second four out and needed to beat the Seminoles to get back into the conversation, but won’t have that shot now.
  • Nevada defeated Boise State in the Mountain West Tournament, likely sending the Broncos out of the bubble picture, freeing up another spot for the Orange.
  • Michigan State, or as they will now be called, MSU Spartans Presented by Rocket Mortgage (puke!), lost to Maryland. They’re ranked 67th in NET and will only drop further, but Lunardi had the Spartans in his final four byes.

Of course, it was not all good news for Syracuse, as these fellow bubble teams strengthened their resumes with wins:

  • Seton Hall defeated St. John’s in overtime. Both teams were on the bubble, so it’s not necessary bad news for the Orange, though of the two, the Pirates (58) had the better resume than the Red Storm (66). Root for Georgetown to beat Seton Hall to free up another bubble spot on Friday.
  • Utah State had zero trouble with UNLV in the Mountain West Tournament, cruising past UNLV. Colorado State defeated Fresno, setting up a bubble bursting/saving matchup between the two teams in the semifinals. That will be one to circle on Friday.

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About Wes Cheng 2907 Articles
Wes has worked for covering the New York Knicks, as well as for covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also been a contributing writer for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), for SportsNet New York (SNY) as a news desk writer covering all of New York professional sports, and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005 with a degree in journalism. Contact him at wes[at]