The Orange’s thriller over Clemson was vital. So much so that it elevated Syracuse into fourth place in the ACC standings, meaning if the season ended today, SU would get a double bye in the conference tournament. Along with that, the Orange sits just half a game back of second place, and holds the tiebreaker over both teams (Virginia and Florida State). In a conference that could send a record amount of teams to the NCAA Tournament, it would be hard for the committee to omit a top four team.
The Clemson win gives Syracuse its eighth conference win, and many believed that 11 wins in the ACC would lock any ACC team into the tournament.
It’s crazy to think that a couple weeks ago, the Orange’s chances at playing deep into March were merely a pipe dream. Now, SU is in CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm’s Last Four In.
There is still some work left for Syracuse to do, but what was once an improbability, now seems more likely than not. Here is what the Orange needs to do to dance on:
There are only six games left on Syracuse’s slate, none of which are sure things. Of the six, there is a three and three split of home and road games. Three of the Orange’s remaining opponents are in the AP Top 25, No. 18 Duke and No. 4 Louisville twice. The other teams that fill out the schedule are Pitt and Georgia Tech.
It really hinges on how comfortable SU wants to be come Selection Sunday. Now that the Orange has some quality wins, there is some leeway. If the Orange can come out with one more Top 25 win, it would almost lock them into the tournament, barring yet another opening round loss in the ACC tournament. Two of SU’s remaining ranked opponents are coming to the Dome, which should help the Orange pull out at least one win.
With the way Syracuse has played lately, it’s tough to bet against them. The Orange has been resilient on the road and dominant at home, Jim Boeheim is in the midst of arguably his best coaching stretch of his career and Andrew White and Tyler Lydon have elevated their games to new heights. That being said, it is very reasonable for Syracuse to beat an unbelievably good Louisville team. The Cardinals are traveling to central New York with just one full day of rest in between games. With a team like Louisville that dials it up on defense every night, it will be hard to replicate that effort with such a short turnaround. However, it seems implausible for the Cardinals to lose on their own floor. There is likely a trap game along the way and that could come in the form of Pitt this weekend and Georgia Tech both times. The Yellow Jackets have stunned upper echelon teams in the ACC already this year, so beating Syracuse would just be another day at the office for Josh Pastner and company.
If the Orange can split its remaining ACC games, it will likely need a solid win or two in the ACC tournament. But if SU can compile a 4-2 finish, it would be extremely hard for the committee to leave out a team with that type of resume.