Last week, before the Orange took on the Pitt Panthers in their ACC opener, ESPN’s Andy Katz reported that Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim believes that this year’s team has “no margin for error”. Now, after dropping its first two conference games, Syracuse’s margin for error is certainly dwindling.
Syracuse is now facing what is essentially a must-win game as it prepares for its ACC home-opener against Clemson. After starting 6-0, the Orange have stumbled to a 10-5 record. Since losing Mike Hopkins has taken over for Boeheim, the Orange are 4-4, winning the games that everyone expected them to and dropping all four of the “toss-ups”, including a tough loss on the road to Miami.
If the Orange fall to the Tigers at the Carrier Dome, they would be 0-3 in Conference play with one of the toughest games of the year next up. They would then be starting 0-4 in the face and would need to have a huge turnaround to make it into the Big Dance.
It is impossible to predict how the season will play out, but it seems fair to suggest that the Orange will need to go about 9-9 or 10-8 in conference play to make March Madness. As they have already dropped two games, they now need to go 9-7 from this point on. Losing to Clemson would change that to 9-6 with a pair of games against UNC, and trips to Duke and UVA still on the docket.
Of course, the Orange could pull off the upset against one of the top teams in the conference. Crazier things have happened to be sure. However, this all shows just how right Boeheim was in his assessment that this time has “no margin for error”. After tonight’s game against Clemson, Syracuse’s schedule doesn’t get any easier.
After the UNC game, Syracuse is home to BC, at Wake and then on the road against Duke and Virginia. Syracuse absolutely needs to win the games that they are expected to win.