The countdown has started. Syracuse basketball is now counting down the three games left on its regular season schedule.
Still with a mediocre résumé to show for a rollercoaster-like season, the Orange are in need of at least one more win to be safely in the NCAA Tournament.
But it won’t be easy. The final three games for SU are against #10 Duke, #7 Louisville and Georgia Tech. This is a slate of two ranked opponents, a rival and two teams the Orange already lost to this season — a series that is hard to overcome.
Yet, Syracuse already surprised many this season with wins over #6 Florida State and #9 Virginia.
If the Orange beat either Duke or Louisville (or both), SU will have beaten at least three top-ten (at the time) teams in its 2016-2017 campaign. With at least one of those wins, Syracuse can significantly elevate its appearance in the eyes of bracketologists.
With one more win, even a close loss to a ranked opponent could potentially help. Yes, Syracuse did lose to Louisville in the first game between the two teams this season, but SU put up a fight. If anything, the Orange have shown that it is unpredictable and will not give up.
And, let’s be honest, the NCAA wants to make money. Syracuse is an exciting team to watch. The NCAA wants that. Syracuse has been an NCAA Tournament staple over the past 44 years, only missing the tournament eight times during that time (in 2015 because SU removed itself from contention). Including SU in the tournament is a clear choice to get a dithyrambic fan base involved in the tournament games.
However, there are hard losses this year that do not make the Orange look like the best choice to be in the Tournament. Early non-conference losses against SOuth Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgetown and St. John’s have hindered the Orange’s ripe shine since starting out the year ranked in the top 25.
But Syracuse doesn’t necessarily need to look like the best choice. SU just needs to look like it is one of the top 16 choices.
As a team that made the Final Four last year, started out as a ranked team this year and has turned its season around with wins over top-ten teams (some in miraculous fashion), the Orange have a good chance of making it to the Round of 64.
Thirty-two teams are guaranteed spots in the NCAA Tournament for winning their divisions. Not all divisions across the country are as good as the ACC.
Some division winners that will be in the NCAA Tournament come from divisions that are much easier to win in, making their division title somewhat less impressive. Those teams will wind up with the lowest of the 16 seeds, raising Syracuse’s chance of securing a higher seed.
As of now, some bracketologists have Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament while others do not.
Winning two of the next three is optimal for SU, if not all three. However, one win over either Duke or Louisville could seal the deal.
Published: David Edelstein