Syracuse basketball’s five-game winning streak has taken the college basketball world by surprise. Before January 24, the Orange had lost three of its last four ACC games (including blowouts to UNC and Notre Dame) and was under .500 in conference play for the first time this season. Since, the Orange has beaten two top 10 teams on its way to a spot in the NCAA Tournament, according to Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology.
Syracuse fans are grateful to be in the big dance at all, but knowing what Syracuse had to do to claw its way back into consideration makes the tough losses that much harder to look back to. If Syracuse had just one another game here or there the Orange would be safely in the Tournament, but instead Syracuse still has work to do to further itself from the bubble.
By RPI, St. John’s was not the Orange’s worst loss of the season, but anyone who was in the Carrier Dome on Dec. 21 knows this one was the biggest dagger to the hearts of most Cuse fans. Any 33-point loss would have made Orange Nation question Syracuse’s tournament qualifications, but losing by 33 to the Red Storm made the rest of the country take notice. At the time, St. John’s looked like the same team it was last season: terrible. Chris Mullin had lost to Deleware State, Long Island and Old Dominion in its 5-7 start before meeting the Orange, and just three days before dominating in the Carrier Dome St. John’s had lost to Penn State by 24. This matchup wasn’t supposed to make SU sweat. Luckily, St. John’s later beat Butler to add an ounce of dignity to the loss, but it’s still one of the worst losses in Syracuse history.
Syracuse is 8-5 in the ACC. That’s much better than what we thought the Orange would be at going into conference play, but wouldn’t 9-4 sound so much better? If the Orange had beaten Boston College on New Year’s Day, Syracuse would have been tied for the ACC lead going into yesterday’s loss to Pitt. Syracuse might not make the tournament without a couple more good wins, but a Syracuse team which won the conference couldn’t have been denied a bid. Boston College is the worst team in the ACC by resume, making the game a huge loss both for Syracuse’s RPI and its image.
On Selection Sunday, Syracuse’s loss to Connecticut could easily be what keeps it out of the tournament. If you go by RPI, UConn is Syracuse’s second-worst loss of the year. Yes, it was at a neutral site, but that isn’t an excuse for losing to the No. 121 RPI in the country. The Huskies have lost to Wagner, Tulsa, Northeastern, Memphis and Houston this year, making them a cancer to the tournament chances of any team who lost to them.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson