Syracuse basketball is taking care of business so far. The Orange have won every game they should have, but haven’t picked up a marquee win yet. As a result, SU isn’t even on the bubble yet. But let’s get ahead of ourselves and map out the team’s most likely path to March Madness anyways.
First, let’s get on the same page. The easiest path that Syracuse can emulate is Pittsburgh’s last year. The Panthers went 21-10, won one ACC Tournament game, and were named an 11 seed as one of the last four teams into the NCAA Tournament. With a similar conference landscape this season, this is pretty much the worst SU can do and still expect a March Madness bit, so let’s explore that route.
Win Four of the Next Five Games
Over the next two and a half weeks, Syracuse plays:
vs. Florida State
vs. NC State
at Boston College
at Wake Forest
In all honesty, SU should win all five of these games, but winning seven in a row in the ACC is an unfair expectation. Still, the standard should be at least four wins. The most likely loss is Wake Forest, although NC State is also a relatively tough game.
To get into the tournament, the Orange needs to take care of business in another relatively easy stretch.
Stay Competitive at Home
In mid-February, Syracuse has two prime opportunities to pick up its first resume-boosting win of the season:
vs. North Carolina
Now, these are two very different matchups. Clemson started the year hot, but are 3-4 in ACC play. In a road game, the Tigers are very susceptible to a loss. North Carolina, on the other hand, put SU through a meat grinder last week.
UNC would be the more impressive win, but Clemson would more than suffice as proof that Syracuse has a high enough ceiling for March Madness. Still, the Orange don’t need to win either of these. Staying competitive is enough.
Go 4/5 Again
After that tough week, there’s more relief in SU’s schedule:
at Georgia Tech
at NC State
vs. Notre Dame
vs. Virginia Tech
Syracuse absolutely has to beat Notre Dame and Louisville. They’re the only two ACC teams with losing records.
The other three clashes each provide their own difficulties. Georgia Tech went 1-1 with Duke, and almost swept the Blue Devils. NC State is 5-2 in the conference. Virginia Tech has solid wins against Clemson and NC State. Losing one in this stretch is understandable. More than that would count against the Orange.
Finish Out the Season…
With anything. If Syracuse can follow the road map above, then the last game shouldn’t matter:
The Tigers are a tournament lock, and beating them on the road is a tall task. At this point though, the matchup with Clemson shouldn’t make or break the season. SU would already have at least 21 wins. The X-factor will come after the regular season.
Win an ACC Tournament Game
If the schedule plays out like this, then Syracuse will be 21-10. Pretty much any win in the ACC Tournament would push the Orange over the edge and into the NCAA Tournament.
How Realistic is This?
It depends. There are so many winnable games left on the schedule, but a few close losses to mediocre teams, and it all goes down the drain. It’s not impossible, but don’t get your hopes up until Syracuse makes it through the next five games successfully.