It is a tense time for certain college basketball programs and their fans. With the regular season drawing to a close, every game becomes even more critical for teams on the bubble. One of those teams, the Syracuse Orange, picked up a huge win on Wednesday night.
The Orange played host to the number 10 Duke Blue Devils, coming away with a buzzer beater victory thanks to a shot by John Gillon. With such a major victory so late in the season, this one game could have a major impact on Selection Sunday. But was it enough to to get Syracuse into the NCAA Tournament? Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
For starters, Wednesday was a very interesting night for teams on the bubble. While Syracuse had the biggest victory of them all, they were not the only bubble squad to come away with a resume-boosting win. Both Providence and Seton Hall helped their own causes. Providence took down Creighton while Seton Hall took down Xavier.
On the flip side, TCU and Kansas State both suffered defeats, although they were to tournament teams. TCU was blown out by Kansas while Kansas State fell to Oklahoma State. Other teams that suffered losses, but of the more devastating variety, were Pittsburgh and Georgetown. Pitt fell at Wake Forest while Georgetown lost at home against DePaul.
So with the bubble likely losing two teams, things certainly are looking up for the Orange. But just because of the smaller picture and the Duke win does not lock ‘Cuse into a spot in the field of 68.
The team currently sits with a 17-12 record, with a 9-7 record in the conference. The magic number that many teams cannot come back from is 14 losses. With two games left in the regular season in addition to the ACC tournament, two more losses is entirely possible.
The team’s next game will come at Louisville on Sunday. Given Louisville is coming off a loss against UNC, they will likely be coming into that game angry. Fans should go into that game expecting a loss. That will make their final regular-season game, at home against Georgia Tech, that much more crucial.
Tech is another team firmly on the bubble as of this moment. Just before the Duke game, Syracuse had dropped their third straight game, which happened to be against Georgia Tech. A second loss to them in the matter of four games would be a critical hit. Tech would easily be placed above the Orange in such a scenario, plus that could be the club’s 14th loss.
But let’s go ahead with the thinking that they can come out of that game with a win. Next up comes the conference tournament. As things stand right now, they will be holding the seventh seed. That would be good enough for a first-round bye.
It is entirely possible that their first matchup in the ACC tourney will once again come against Georgia Tech, who currently holds the 10 seed. If that does come to fruition, this could be the game that ultimately determines their fate. But if they get an easier opponent, such as Boston College or NC State, and it would be their third round matchup that creates more intrigue.
As the seven seed, they would be lined up to face the two. That could be any number of four teams: Louisville, Duke, Florida State or Notre Dame. A solid performance in this game could be all they would need in order to finalize their spot.
So the bottom line is the Duke win on Wednesday night was not enough to lock the ‘Cuse into the Big Dance. There simply is no looking past some of the team’s ugly losses from earlier in the year. They have suffered home losses to the likes of UConn, Georgetown and Saint John’s. In addition, the club lost road games to the likes of Boston College, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech.
Given the team’s RPI is not the strongest, paired with their overall amount of losses and the quality of some of those losses, and Syracuse is not out of the woods just yet. Now, last season, no one thought they were deserving of even making the tournament. Then they went on to make a magical run during the NCAA Tournament.
So while the Duke game does not lock things up, it surely is a huge step in the right direction. But the team is going to need to avoid losing to Georgia Tech again before they should feel too confident.