The ACC Tournament is underway in Greensboro, and the Orange is in uncharted territory. SU has played the traditional powerhouses in Duke and UNC, as well as the conference champion Virginia, splitting four games against those three teams. So which one is the biggest challenge to SU?
Syracuse and UNC wouldn’t meet until a potential championship game, and the Orange handled the Tar Heels pretty easily back in mid-January. SU didn’t even play particularly well in that game, possibly a sign of things to come, shooting just 35 percent from the field, yet still winning by a dozen. Jerami Grant played a big role in his first game starting in place of DaJuan Coleman, putting up a double double in the victory. Of course, since then UNC has turned things around, winning 13 of its 15 games since the loss to SU, with the losses coming to Duke and Virginia. With the streak, the Tar Heels jumped all the way to number 15 in the final AP Poll. This is a different UNC team than the one Syracuse faced in the Dome in mid-January, but the Heels still may not be a big threat to the Orange. Of course, this is all assuming both teams can reach the finals to begin with. Threat Level: low.
Syracuse and Duke played two epic games this season; however in both cases the winner was the home team. Whether you want to point to Boeheim’s explosion in Cameron as a reason for an Orange loss, or questionable fouls in the Dome as a reason for a Duke loss, most college basketball fans probably agree they want to see a third matchup between the Orange and the Blue Devils. But this time, it would be on a neutral court, with the possibility of a seed change in the NCAA tournament on the line. This game could provide some closure on the season series that has produced multiple great moments in the college basketball season. And it would only be a semifinal. Since Syracuse has beaten Duke once this year, Threat Level: mild.
The trip to Virginia did not go well for the Orange. SU had a chance to put itself in the driver’s seat for a regular-season ACC title in its first year in the conference. Instead, Virginia won its first conference championship since 1982 with a blowout win over the Orange. Syracuse really let the game slip away late when Virginia seemingly couldn’t miss a shot and the Orange had no answer on offense. The Cavaliers were the better team in Charlottesville a couple of weeks ago, and would probably still be the better team if the two were to meet on a neutral court in the championship game of the ACC tournament. Threat Level: high.
What about the field? Really, those three teams are the only three teams that should be perceived as threats going into the ACC Tournament. Of course, the Orange has lost to Boston College and Georgia Tech already this year, but it’s unrealistic to expect the Orange to lose to either one, and for either GT or BC to get to the semifinals. The same goes for the other ACC teams, the Orange would still be large favorites over any of them likely with nothing to fear even after close calls in the regular season.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg