There’s been plenty of concern over Syracuse’s up-and-down season. The four blowout losses have been embarrassing to a program that has been one of the best in the sport’s history. But the NCAA Committee gave SU more credit than that, pitting them against 5-seed Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday at 7:30p.
Multiple outlets assumed the Orange would draw the 8-seed which would’ve meant top-seed UNC in the second-round. But with a win, SU would potentially play 4-seed Virginia in its second game, a team they’ve beaten twice this season. That game would also be played in Hempstead, Long Island, an area SU lax recruits vigorously and has legions of fans.
It’s been a quirky lax season due to Covid restrictions and scheduling. Syracuse is the only team in the field a mere two games over .500 (7-5). But SU passed the eye test for the committee. SU was one of five ACC teams made the field, with no other league having more than two selections. North Carolina (No. 1), Duke (No. 2), Virginia (No. 4) and Notre Dame (No. 6) are in. The Orange are 3-0 all-time vs. Georgetown in the tourney, but haven’t played since ’04. SU has made the bracket 12 straight times, but hasn’t won a game since ’17.
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Tonight at 9p ET on ESPNU Syracuse will learn its fate on the Selection Sunday show. Last year’s tournament was canceled due to Covid, so this will be SU’s first postseason game since losing to 8-seed Loyola in the ’19 first round. Where will this year’s Orange land after a roller coaster season? Forget for a moment the emotional whiplash the team must be going through over the last three weeks. Even aside from the Chase Scanlan saga, SU has had its massive highs and lows.
SU has beaten Virginia twice, yet been annihilated by Notre Dame and North Carolina. The Orange is hoping the 21-14 win over Robert Morris is more the type of team they are than the blowout misery against the Irish. With Scanlan officially suspended can the Orange have a clear mindset going into the tourney?
On Friday afternoon Inside Lacrosse put out its latest mock bracket. It put SU as an 8-seed taking on Army. The winner would take on 1-seed UNC most likely. The Orange opened up the season against Army with an 18-11 loss, the first sign the defense would not be airtight. This mock came out before SU beat Robert Morris later that day.
US Lacrosse Magazine has this to say about SU in the field: “No one will be blamed for not fully trusting Syracuse, and those four blowout losses provide good reason to not do so. But the Orange, who dispatched Robert Morris on Friday, will almost certainly be in the field thanks to their sweep of Virginia.” The outlet has SU taking on 8-seed Lehigh in the first-round, the winner to face 1-seed UNC most likely.
The pressure for tournament success continues to mount for SU. John Desko hasn’t been to a Final Four since ’13, which used to be the imminent domain of SU lax. The Orange haven’t won a tourney game since ’17.
Last week Lacrosse Bucket had the Orange as the first team out before the Robert Morris game. “In the first three bracketology posts I had Syracuse in as the last team in and while I believe they still have a chance of getting in, their blowout loss coupled with Loyola’s win over Georgetown and Villanova’s victory over Lehigh did nothing to help them this weekend. At the moment, I have them as the first team out.”
The guess here is the wins over Virginia and the strength of the ACC will lift the Orange into the field tonight. The four blowout losses are tough to stomach, but with a good-looking win over Robert Morris to close out the season, the committee will put the Orange in.