Orange Fizz


Is Syracuse Really Playing with House Money?

Photo courtesy of @CuseMBB on X

Ahead of a season-defining game against Clemson on Tuesday night, it is remarkable that Syracuse finds itself in this position. The Orange are 20-10 (19-10 in the eyes of the committee), and could be even better if not for disappointing road losses to Georgia Tech and Boston College (imagine if this team was 22-8!). So, with one more regular season game to go and SU in the running for a double bye as the 4 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament in Washington D.C., let’s examine the stakes at play.

The Orange are still on the outside looking in of the tournament, anywhere from just outside of the field to 10 teams out based on whose bracket you look at. A win at Clemson, a projected 5 seed, would be in Quad 1 and be the Orange’s third win against a projected tournament team this season (Colgate and North Carolina). Syracuse was not expected to be here. The Orange were picked 10th in the preseason poll and even if they lose to the Tigers are likely to be no lower than 7th with 11 wins already, their most in the league since their first year in 2013-14.

So, with that said, with the low expectations in year one for Autry, a team that hasn’t been to the tournament in two years, with no seniors and a team of mostly sophomores, are they playing with house money? I’m not sure in Syracuse you can ever play with house money because of the standards of the program, but here’s what respected columnist Brent Axe had to say on the matter Monday:

“The beauty is if Syracuse fails to make the NCAA Tournament, the blame will not be put at the feet of the Orange,” Axe said. “The NCAA’s flawed NET rankings and its head-scratching measurements of college basketball prowess will get most of the scrutiny.”

Now this logic is certainly true, as Orange fans are up in arms over SU being in 4th place in the ACC but 84th in the NET as of Monday and not much better on at 79th. It’s pretty simple why: those metrics rely heavily on efficiency and margin of victory. Syracuse has specialized this season in close wins and blowout losses. That’s the reason the Orange are where they are.

Now, should your margin of victory be a factor in determining how good you are, yes absolutely, when separating teams, yes, if you beat someone by 20 and someone else beats them by 2, that means something, But, should the committee’s number one metric rely on this as its top reason for determining teams in the tournament, absolutely not. A win is a win, if you need to separate on the slimmest of margins, that’s where efficiency and margin of victory can come into play, but 20 wins are 20 wins, no matter how you get there. 

So, bringing it back to house money; yes, in a certain sense, there is a little freedom for Syracuse to play with because if they fail against Clemson or at the ACC Tournament they can blame the committee for not having a fair shot at the dance, but even despite all the turmoil, SU is a program that should be in this position every year, the bare minimum being fighting for a tournament spot if not in the dance. 

The Orange have a chance, now it’s up to them to continue this streak of four in a row and five out of six with a week off before DC. It’s given us all something to cheer about and be locked into. But, house money, I don’t think so. Syracuse should be at least here every year, and Adrian Autry has proven he’s the guy to do it. There cannot be enough praise given to him for his work this season and everything he’s done with this group. He should without a doubt be in the top 3 for ACC Coach of the Year, but he is not playing with house money. Syracuse fans expect the best, and he’ll get them there in due time.

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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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