Dissecting the positives and negatives of where the Orange sit right now heading out to San Jose.
The road to the Final Four goes through San Jose and Washington D.C. for Syracuse. The Orange locked up a #4 seed in the East and will face Big Sky champion Montana in the first round. The Fizz breaks down every angle of SU’s bracket – the good, the bad and the ugly – and how likely it is that Syracuse will be dancing in New Orleans.
- The Good
The Orange is a number 4. As much as fans want to complain, this team barely looked like a 6-seed a week and half ago. What matters most is that Syracuse is vastly improved after its Big East Tournament run. The goal was to improve in New York. And SU did, after going 3-0 in three straight bruisers against Seton Hall, Pitt and Georgetown. The legs went in the second half against Louisville, but if anything, that gives the Orange a little chip on its shoulder heading into this weekend. That’s some solid motivation with the likes of Indiana, Miami and Marquette looming in SU’s bracket.
The best part about where Syracuse sits in this year’s field of 68 is that it drew a very favorable “schedule” in San Jose. The Orange road to the Sweet 16 would have been much tougher in any other bracket. Be happy SU faces #5 UNLV (The Rebs will roll past Cal) in the 2nd round, as opposed to other #5 seeds around the tourney. SU could have had a date with Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State in the round of 32 in the Midwest. The Big 12 Player of the Year is a dangerous matchup against Michael Carter-Williams. Wisconsin is the fifth seed in the West and is a physically battle tested Big Ten squad with a lot of senior leadership (you remember the Badgers, don’t you?). UNLV is a talented team and Tony Snell (12.6 PPG, 43% FG) can flat out ball. But the Runnin’ Rebels are not fast enough to turn the Orange over and do what Louisville did on Saturday. SU’s run to the Sweet 16 as a #4 is most favorable in the East, which in general, is the second easiest bracket in the field.
Also the Orange has made a west coast trip already this year, and should have no problem adjusting to the time change.
- The Bad
Even despite draw in the first couple rounds, Syracuse deserved a #3 seed. There are so many “logistical” factors that are inserted into the selection decisions that the Committee hides from the public, but this one is hard to explain. The Fizz projected last week that SU might battle with Michigan State or Michigan for the final three seed, as SU made its run to the Big East title game. The Spartans locked up a 3-seed but the Wolverines were dropped to a 4. It seemed like the Orange was destined for the final third seed. But it goes to Marquette (in the East no less). The Golden Eagles dropped out in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tourney – two days before SU fell – had three less wins overall, had a lower BPI (which is similar to the RPI ranking, but is a better indicator of how your team played throughout the season), and had a worse record against the Top 25.
Mike Bobinski, the Head Chair of the Tournament Selection Committee, made it pretty clear that conference tournaments played a small role, if any, in the seeding process, which should be unacceptable. For example, Oregon (26-8) defeated UCLA (25-9) in the Pac-12 title game and is awarded with a #12 seed? Meanwhile the Bruins wind up with a #6, and Bobinski was left babbling about the seeding line the Ducks sat at BEFORE they entered their conference tourney (1:30 mark of video).
But then why did Pittsburgh – a team that was ranked #17 in the nation last week – drop all the way down to a #8 seed after its quarterfinal exit against SU? Do conference tournaments play a factor or not? Considering it’s the Big East, it should have in SU’s case. Syracuse was projected as a #5 seed entering the Big East Tournament and only jumped one slot. Last year Louisville won the Big East title and jumped two slots from a projected #6 before the Big East Tourney to a #4 afterward. SU should have jumped to the #3 seed in the East considering the team it was behind was Marquette.
- The Ugly
The slim difference between a 3 and 4 seed would’ve meant the Orange would have a much easie road to the Elite 8 (and not had to worry about the the Hoosiers until the regional finals in D.C.). Playing IU in the Sweet 16 is a scary thought. The Hoosiers have a relatively easy 8/9 matchup in the second round between either N.C. State or Temple, and wouldn’t truly be tested until the regional semi-final. SU would most likely have played the #2 seed in the East, Miami, in the Sweet 16 if they had been rewarded with a 3-seed. The Hurricanes are much less of a defensive threat compared to the Hoosiers. In a game that pitted a finesse squad like Miami, the Orange would have gotten the advantage.
Instead, Syracuse runs into Victor Oladipo and company its first game in D.C. The Orange needs the little things we saw this past weekend to carry over to next. Syracuse won’t have its “New York City Home Court Advantage” out in California. And as capable as he is of doing it, how likely is it that James Southerland’s goes off like he did in NY again this upcoming weekend? It can happen, but he won’t be in the same rythym that comes from playing four straight nights.
Syracuse needs the same contributions from Baye Keita and Trevor Cooney off the bench and consistent play of Michael Carter-Williams (minus the last 15 minutes of the Louisville game) to carry over. This is a confident team, and they’ll have to get hot down in D.C. just like they did inside the Garden.
Fitz’s East Bracket Breakdown
On the top of the bracket, the Hoosiers steamroll either the NEC’s finest, Long Island, or James Madison out of the Convict – err… Colonial Athletic Conference. Go with #9 Temple to surprise the Wolpack in Dayton as well. The Mountain West proves it is the West’s best this year, #5 UNLV avoids an upset over #12 Cal, and much to the chagrin of Seth Davis, moves on to face the Orange in the second round. Tyler Zeller and company push the Owls around to advance to the Sweet 16 and meet the Orange that wins a close game against the Rebs.
On the bottom half of the bracket, avoid going with the #11 Bucknell upset over Butler. The Bulldogs advance, and face (UPSET ALERT) #14 Davidson in the second round. Sorry, no love for Marquette, as the Wildcats are riding a 17-game win streak into the Big Dance. #2 Miami has no problem with Pacific, and #7 Illinois advances over Colorado in what will be the worst 7/10 matchup in the field. The #6 Bulldogs make it to another Sweet 16 with a victory over fellow ex-Cinderella Davidson, and play Shane Larkin’s Hurricanes after they narrowly escape an upset against a bruising Big Ten Illini team.
The East regional finals in D.C. comes down to Indiana-Syracuse and Miami-Butler. SU’s tourney run ends early once again in the Sweet 16, and the Hoosiers move on to face Miami after they spank the Bulldogs. Indiana, the eventual National Champs, are just too physical for the Canes and advance back to the Final Four for the first time since 2002.
Posted: Kevin Fitzgerald