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Hoops

SU Hoops Still Has A Big Reason For Optimism

Credit Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images

In case you missed it, this past week has not been kind to Syracuse men’s basketball. COVID issues have forced the Orange off the court and shoved winnable non-conference games into uncertain makeup territory. The disruptions come at a bad time for a team lacking confidence and for fans all around New York searching for a distraction from a statewide COVID surge.

So sure, things seem bad. ‚ÄòCuse‚Äôs pelting weather and a singular biweekly glimpse at the sun (no more, no less) during the winter don‚Äôt help matters, either. However, there‚Äôs something Jim Boeheim’s team needs to keep in mind as it waits out yet another virus-induced delay.

The ACC is pretty much wide open this year. If you don’t believe me, let’s break down some of the teams SU is up against.

The conference’s best team is definitely Duke (10-1, 0-0 ACC, No. 6 KenPom), sneakily lurking around the middle of the standings thanks to its absence of a conference game. They may be slipping under your radar thanks to Coach K’s ongoing retirement tour distraction and a multi-player DWI incident about a month ago. Despite the outside noise, the Blue Devils’ No. 2 ranking backs up their standing.

Past that, I challenge you to come up with a truly strong number two in the conference. UNC (8-3, 1-0 ACC, No. 37 KenPom) might be your immediate gut pick, but they got worked by Purdue, Tennessee, and Kentucky in pretty quick succession. A closer look reveals their most impressive wins are over a disappointing Michigan team and some nearby non-con softballs. 

Every team past North Carolina has something hard to overlook about them, making the conference seem a little bit more like the seasonally-appropriate Land of Misfit Toys than a perennial basketball juggernaut. Miami’s record (9-3, 1-0 ACC) is fooling no one, and star guard Isaiah Wong still isn’t quite right. Their 99th overall spot in KenPom points to a team facing imminent regression.

Going on down, Louisville (7-4, 1-0 ACC, No. 50 KenPom) and its teamwide 41.8% field goal rate have been a bricklaying masonry. Virginia (7-4, 1-0 ACC, No. 57 KenPom) is shooting even worse than the Cards and is armed and dangerous with one of the worst offenses in Division I. Boston College (6-5, 1-0 ACC, No. 126 KenPom) simply isn’t good, but cut the poor Eagles some slack. We shouldn’t have expected them to run with venerable basketball powerhouses like the University of Saint Louis and UAlbany

The most intriguing teams within the conference right now are actually Virginia Tech (8-4, 0-1 ACC, No. 22 KenPom) according to KenPom and Wake Forest (11-1, 1-0 ACC, No. 65 KenPom) if you just look at the pure W-L record. Both are far from blue bloods and should be slapped with the “still early” label. VT just got upended by a middling Dayton squad, and Wake has to show it can sustain success after doing nothing for a decade plus.

Ultimately, Syracuse (5-5, 1-0 ACC, No. 68 KenPom) definitely has things it needs to work on. The team’s depth and defense have been brutal, but it has a gaping wide conference to work with. It may not be a single-bid year for the ACC in March, but things aren’t far off if current trends continue. If Syracuse can work out some of its wrinkles and stay on bubble watch, take it to the bank that it can thread the needle back into tourney play by feeding off a down year from the ACC.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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