After squeaking into the NCAA Tournament and rattling off two impressive wins, it’s time to rethink Syracuse. That being said, it’s time to rethink the entire bracket. Who could’ve seen 15-seed Oral Roberts still dancing? Or the worst power conference, the PAC-12, with 25% of the field left? ESPN.com looked at the Sweet 16 and re-seeded the bracket. Sixteen teams, four 1-seeds, four 2-seeds, four 3-seeds, 4 four-seeds. Gonzaga was the obvious top overall seed, and the pair of other 1-seeds predictably came in at #2 and #3 (Baylor and Michigan).
ESPN put the Alabama at #4 (the final “1-seed”). Again, no surprise. Then it gets interesting. Loyola-Chicago slots in at #5, Villanova #6 and FSU at #7. Syracuse – notably ahead of the 2-seed it’ll play Saturday night – came in at #8. Which means the final “2-seed” of the new imaginary bracket.
When Syracuse battles Houston Saturday night, they will actually be underdogs in the game by 6 points, however if the Orange recipe for success keeps working (amazing shooting from three and added pressure on defense) this could be another SU win.
In six memorable games in the 2003 NCAA tournament, Carmelo Anthony averaged 20.1 PPG and made 48% of his 3-point attempts. We would never suggest Buddy Boeheim is superior to Anthony, who led Syracuse on that national title run. But Boeheim’s numbers, thus far, are better. He is averaging 27.5 PPG and connecting on 57% of his 3-point attempts for a Syracuse team that beat San Diego State and West Virginia to advance to the Sweet 16.
As a team, Syracuse has made 60% of its shots inside the arc and 49% of its 3-point attempts with Boeheim on the floor, per hooplens.com, in the NCAA tournament. It is his father and coach Jim Boeheim’s first Sweet 16 appearance since the 2017-18 season. None of this makes sense, but the elder Boeheim’s best work in the postseason rarely does.
Intriguingly, four more teams that were originally seeded higher than SU by the Selection Committee come in after the Orange. Houston is at #9 (2-seed), Arkansas at #10 (3-seed), USC at #12 (6-seed), and Oregon at #13 (7-seed).
So is Syracuse actually the 8th best team in the field, and a better option to win the national championship than Houston or Arkansas? The answer is actually yes. Jim Boeheim’s experience gives him an edge over Kelvin Sampson or Eric Musselman. The 2-3 zone is clearly a difference-maker in March. And SU has recruited elite talent to match up well with opponents and has players becoming their best selves like Buddy Boeheim.
The odds are clearly stacked against SU in winning 4 more games, but it’s not crazy to believe the Orange is actually better than the 2-seed it’s playing against this weekend.