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SU’s Postseason Path is Simple, But Won’t Be Easy

Credit Dennis Nett/Courtesy Syracuse.com

It’s come to this. After 19 games, Syracuse men’s basketball is rudderless and drifting into unchecked territory. The Orange are 9-10, 3-4 in the ACC, and 2-5 since New Year’s Day. Last year, SU got all the way to the Sweet Sixteen before its tenth loss of the year. Now, the team is already at that mark with a month-plus of games to go.

Yesterday’s 79-59 undressing at the hands of Duke meant more than just the worst-ever Orange defeat at the hands of the Blue Devils. The game displayed a yawning gap between two programs that have gone opposite directions since Syracuse’s headlong dive into the ACC before the 2013-14 season. A loss of identity and recruiting prowess have followed to lead the team to where they are now: an also-ran in the Atlantic Coast.

The NCAA tournament now seems squarely off the table for this year’s bunch, thanks partly to some excruciating January losses and a lack of quality wins. Strangely enough, dragging Lafayette and a couple sacrificial Ivy League outfits around the Dome hasn’t tickled the selection committee’s fancy. The ACC’s overall weakness doesn’t help matters, either. At this point, looking toward what the Orange have to do to scrape into their first NIT since 2016-17 is a lot more reasonable. Looking ahead, Syracuse’s schedule presents a plainly obvious roadmap.

SU has 12 regular season games left, all within conference. To avoid the team’s first-ever non-sanctioned postseason absence under Jim Boeheim, the Orange need to go at least 7-5 in their remaining 12 contests and finish at .500. Depending on how you feel about the team, that may seem like an easy call or a huge challenge.

To start, the Orange have games in the next month against a stricken Pitt team, a fading Virginia Tech squad, Georgia Tech, and a road trip against NC State. Those are four games Syracuse must have at all costs. There can’t be any qualms about SU taking care of the current bottom four teams in the ACC if they want to have any reasonable road to the postseason. All four of those games come in SU’s next eight matchups. Those eight will likely determine this team’s postseason fate.

Beyond that, going 3-5 against a slate of Wake Forest, Louisville, Boston College (twice), Notre Dame, Duke, UNC and Miami is the minimum for hopeful postseason play. The 16-4 Demon Deacons may be too much for SU to handle, and you can chalk up Ls against Duke and probably Miami – the ‘Canes aren’t going to fall behind by 18 before surging to a win again. However, victories against Louisville and a sweep of Boston College don’t look out of the question. If Jim Boeheim and company could pull off upsets against Notre Dame or a struggling UNC team, power to them. They’d be resumé helpers that the Orange badly need. 

Syracuse’s poor play has narrowed the road to the postseason drastically. They can still play into March one way or another, but without an unexpected run, their fate looks sealed. Finishing at .500 is the new target for this season. It’s a disappointment to be sure, but this squad isn’t done – their path to the finish line is still simple, but just won’t be easy.

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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