At 14-5 (5-4 ACC) Syracuse is about halfway through conference play. The Orange have picked up some decent wins by sweeping Pittsburgh and taking down Miami, but have also gotten drubbed at Virginia, Duke, and North Carolina along with their only “bad” loss of the season at home to Florida State last week.
Most bracketologists have SU on the outside looking in at this point, it’s just about how far outside they have the Orange compared to their peers. Some have Syracuse in the First Four Out, while others are barely even considering them for the field. So, with 11 games to go in the regular season, let’s categorize each one to determine what SU needs to do to have a shot at the big dance.
Can Not Lose: at Boston College, vs Clemson
Let’s start with a fun one. These are two drastically different basketball teams. Clemson has a tremendous non-conference performance, and that is why the Tigers are 28th in the NET Rankings as of January 29th. The Eagles on the other hand already have one loss to the Orange (69-59 on Jan. 10th), and are 90th in the NET.
So, for Syracuse, BC is a Can’t Lose because it would be a loss below Q1, and you have to win on the road to make the NCAA Tournament, something SU has only done twice this season so far. The Clemson game is a Can’t Lose because it is the only realistic chance you have at a Q1 win left this season, as the chances of beating North Carolina after the first time the two teams played this year does not bode well, and winning in South Carolina against the Tigers is not easy. The Orange desperately need another Q1 win, especially if Oregon and Pittsburgh drop out of their respective spots in the NET.
Hurts to Lose More Than It Helps to Win: at Georgia Tech, at NC State, vs Virginia Tech
This is another fun category. It was certainly true with the FSU loss last week and would have been for either Miami or NC State during the homestand as well. The Yellow Jackets are currently 134th in the NET, the Wolfpack are 84th, and the Hokies are 45th.
A win against Virginia Tech would certainly help, but losing any of these games would be really hurtful to your resume, you are trying to avoid bad losses at this point and each of these would be one of those. They would also be considered “Must Wins”, but for the purpose of this exercise, let’s keep this label because it is what the industry is calling a lot of these types of games.
Would be Nice: at Wake Forest, vs North Carolina, at Clemson
These are the three most difficult games on Syracuse’s schedule. Wake Forest is 47th in the NET, Clemson is top-30 as mentioned earlier, and North Carolina is 8th while being ranked 3rd in the AP Poll. A win here would do wonders for a resume, but it should not be expected, which is why Syracuse is an average 6.9-point underdog according to barttorvik.com in these three games. We’ll see how competitive the Orange are considering their tendency to get blown out when they do lose.
You Better Not Lose: vs Louisville, vs Notre Dame, at Louisville
The final category may be the most fun one, as if you lose any of these three games you basically just lit your resume on fire. A loss home or away to the Cardinals would eliminate any tournament chances, as it probably will for Miami who fell to them at home a couple of weeks ago. Notre Dame isn’t much better at 7-13, and especially with that being Jim Boeheim Day in the Dome, a loss would be catastrophic.
To close, these final 11 games all have unique stakes, and it seems like SU probably needs to win 7-8 of them to have a chance at the tournament considering what people think of the ACC this year. So, a win against Boston College on Tuesday night would be a good start to building a resume for March.