The last time Mike Krzyzewski lost a basketball game, Syracuse was out of the NCAA Tournament picture after a loss to Boston College, Barack Obama was President of the United States and the Atlanta Falcons were still laughing at the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Indians for blowing insurmountable championship leads. But 52 days and one back surgery later, Duke is surging. The Blue Devils are an AP Top 10 team and are in the midst of a seven game winning streak and have yet to lose since Coach K returned to the sidelines.
While beating Duke despite its recent success could certainly be the bow on SU’s tournament hopes, a loss would not clinch Syracuse’s NIT bid.
The Orange has three games (including tonight) plus the conference tournament remaining in a loaded ACC conference. While SU has slipped considerably since its season-long five game win streak, that bright stretch was enough to pin Syracuse as high as an 11 seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. Even today, Lunardi has the Orange as a 12 seed despite losses to Georgia Tech and Pitt and bracketmatrix.com’s composite list of tournament evaluators has SU as high as a 10 seed.
There seems to be a contingency that believes Syracuse needs just two more wins which, given the schedule, is attainable. Duke and Louisville are tough games, but a win in either essentially locks the Orange into a tournament spot with 3+ wins against top ten teams.
The most important games for SU come in March. Syracuse hosts Georgia Tech and then has the ACC Tournament.
A win against the Yellow Jackets would keep the Orange afloat, but the beauty of the ACC Tournament is its strength. Being in a powerhouse conference only helps Syracuse. A win (or two, or three) looks good given that the ACC has so much talent.
If SU finishes 1-3 or worse down the stretch without beating either Duke or Louisville, then the Orange can look forward to punching its ticket to Madison Square Garden for the second time this season.