EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was published just 13 minutes before Syracuse University formally announced center Jesse Edwards’ season-ending wrist injury.
The other day, we wrote that SU’s next four games were must-wins following the team’s destruction of Louisville last Saturday. Game number one occurred Tuesday, and the Orange labored to a 73-64 win in Chestnut Hill over a bad Boston College team. It wasn’t pretty, but that’s win number one of four down. ‘Cuse is 13-11, on a four-game winning streak, and hot at the right time as the ACC tournament inches closer.
That would good news for any tournament hopeful – even though Syracuse may not be one this year. Here at the Fizz, we’ve pretty much buried any hope for SU to make The Dance in ‘22. To sneak in, the Orange need to extend their winning streak, steal an upset or two in the regular season’s twilight, and do some hurt in the ACC tournament.
Difficult, but not impossible. Just ask ESPN’s Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi.
Lunardi has made a living by accurately predicting which teams will make March Madness and which ones won’t. He’s not perfect, but his brackets end up mostly correct on a consistent basis. If you take stock in that, Syracuse’s absence in his February 8th model – going all the way down the play-in games – isn’t reason for confidence. However, Lunardi admitted SU could still make a run during his Tuesday appearance on ESPN radio.
“This might not be a path, but it would be what we call modeling good behavior…What Virginia did Monday night, that’s what Syracuse has to do, and they have to do it two or three times.” (Joe Lunardi, 2/8/22)
As a reminder, what Virginia “did” on Monday was escape Cameron Indoor Stadium with a gritty 69-68 win over No. 7 Duke that included an entrail-ripping three-pointer in the final seconds by UVA guard Reece Beekman. Something about that seems awfully familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it.
Regardless, SU’s tougher games come up in its final four games of the season: at Notre Dame, Duke at home, at UNC, and Miami at home. Four top-five ACC teams means Syracuse has a difficult row to hoe, but you’d be happy with one win out of that group. Virginia Tech on Saturday would mark SU’s first Quad 1 win of the season, and all but Miami of the former four teams mentioned sit in that group. According to Lunardi, the Orange have to take at least a couple of those Quad 1 tilts.
“…I think they could get away with three [Quad 1 wins] depending on Brooklyn [the ACC tournament]…Because they are going to be playing more games that are risk than reward.” (Lunardi, 2/8/22)
With that in mind, SU’s path seems simple, but not easy by any means. Take care of business in its next three games and score a few upsets by the ACC tournament’s end. If Jim Boeheim’s squad can pull that off, Lunardi says the chances may still be slim – but certainly not impossible.
“[Tuesday] morning, Syracuse was 91st out of the 98 [teams] I was tracking. They moved into that group from triple digits. There was a point in time when Boise State wasn’t on the board and then they won 14 in a row and now they are in an 8-9 game. It does happen.” (Lunardi, 2/8/22)
We’ve seen Syracuse slip into tournaments on the season’s final days and do damage. Think 2016 and 2020 for examples that occurred only recently. All there is to do now is sit back and wait in a familiar place in the NCAA landscape: on the bubble.