Syracuse Basketball: Here’s how ‘Cuse enters the Big Dance conversation

Syracuse basketball has a ton of work to do if it wants to enter the conversation for a potential invite to this spring’s NCAA Tournament.

Some analysts, journalists and bracketology experts are opining that the Orange (15-10, 8-6 in the ACC) likely will have to win the upcoming ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., to get into the Big Dance.

Maybe that’s the case. Maybe not. I am not a bracketologist, but what I will say is that I think the ‘Cuse could start to creep toward the conversation for the 2023 March Madness even without capturing the ACC’s post-season tourney crown.

This past Wednesday night, Syracuse basketball defeated Florida State on the road by nine points. That victory, in and of itself, did virtually nothing for the Orange’s resume, because the Seminoles are a bad team in the 2022-23 stanza.

However, that result put the ‘Cuse at 5-4 in true road contests during the present term. That’s solid, even if its road triumphs are over sub-par opponents. For the entirety of 2022-23, the Orange is also 9-5 at home and 1-1 on neutral courts (the ‘Cuse beat Richmond but then lost to St. John’s at the 2022 Empire Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y., last November).

Syracuse basketball has to notch numerous high-quality wins to bolster its resume.

The main dilemma with the Orange’s resume is that it doesn’t have any coveted quadrant-one successes. When I published this column, the team’s NCAA NET ranking hovered just inside the top 100, which is not good at all.

At the time of this writing, the ‘Cuse was 0-5 in quadrant-one games, 1-2 in quadrant-two games, 6-3 in quadrant-three games and 8-0 in quadrant-four games. Here is a breakdown of NET ratings and the quadrant system.

Prior to the ACC Tournament commencing, Syracuse basketball has six regular-season affairs left on its 2022-23 schedule. They are as follows, and I included each opponent’s NET ranking when I wrote this piece:

February 14 vs. N.C. State
NET: No. 43 (quad two)

February 18 vs. Duke
NET: No. 29 (quad one)

February 22 at Clemson
NET: No. 69 (quad one)

February 25 at Pittsburgh
NET: No. 51 (quad one)

February 28 vs. Georgia Tech
NET: No. 225 (quad four)

March 4 vs. Wake Forest
NET: No. 66 (quad two)

Naturally, these NET rankings are subject to change on a daily basis. Here’s the deal. Four of these final six regular-season contests are at home. Of these half-dozen encounters, three are in quad one, two are in quad two and one is in quad four.

Short of winning the ACC Tournament to get the league’s automatic bid to the Big Dance, Syracuse basketball absolutely must knock off Georgia Tech and Wake Forest on the Hill. The Yellow Jackets aren’t good, and the Orange had better not lose its regular-season finale, when the ‘Cuse will celebrate both senior day and the 20th anniversary of the 2003 national-championship squad.

That then leaves N.C. State at home, Duke at home, Clemson on the road and Pittsburgh on the road. Not an easy four-game slate.

Syracuse basketball has to go at least 2-2 in those games, if not 3-1. Let’s say that in its final six regular-season affairs, the Orange is 4-2. That puts the Orange at 19-12 overall and 12-8 in the ACC.

Better yet, if Syracuse basketball is 5-1 down the stretch, that would give the ‘Cuse an overall mark of 20-11, along with a 13-7 record in ACC competition.

I admit all of this is speculation, and we don’t know what the NET rankings of the Orange or its upcoming foes will look like in the future. But if Syracuse basketball is either 19-12 or 20-11, and then is able to pick up several wins in the ACC Tournament, maybe, just maybe, the ‘Cuse can emerge as a bubble team.

Just as Orange fans would like it come Selection Sunday (insert sarcasm here).