Syracuse Basketball: The Orange is struggling and, candidly, so is the ACC

Syracuse basketball (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images) /

As Syracuse basketball and its peers in the Atlantic Coast Conference wrap up their 2022-23 regular terms in the coming days and prepare for the league’s post-season tourney, the conference certainly isn’t flexing its muscles as it has in years past.

It remains to be seen whether ACC teams will advance deep in this spring’s Big Dance. For our beloved Orange, which has lost three straight games by huge margins, the ‘Cuse needs to win the upcoming ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., to make March Madness.

And while regular seasons don’t always align with NCAA Tournament success, on the face of it, the ACC isn’t all that good in 2022-23 as compared to other heavyweight conferences around the country.

Now, it’s not fair to completely write the ACC off. Let’s not forget that Duke and North Carolina went to the Final Four a stanza ago, with the Tar Heels advancing to the championship contest. And Miami, as a double-digit seed, reached the Elite Eight.

But in this week’s Associated Press top-25 poll, there are only three ACC squads included, with Virginia the highest at No. 13, Miami at No. 16, and Pittsburgh barely squeaking in at No. 25.

Syracuse basketball isn’t good this season, and the ACC isn’t much better.

When I penned this column, just two ACC groups were inside the top 30 of the NCAA’s NET rankings, Duke and Virginia, although obviously, those ratings can fluctuate on a daily basis.

At the time of this writing, over on, experts were forecasting Virginia as a No. 4 seed, Miami as a No. 5 seed, Duke as a No. 7 seed, N.C. State as a No. 9 seed, and Pittsburgh as a No. 10 seed.

Clemson and UNC, meanwhile, are hovering near the proverbial bubble for the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

It’s not simply these metrics, however. To me, and I love Syracuse basketball and the ACC, it’s the eye test. Virginia, which has been inside the top 10 of the major polls for a good portion of the 2022-23 season, recently fell to the Tar Heels and got smoked by Boston College.

North Carolina, the March Madness runner-up in 2022, was the preseason No. 1 team ahead of the current stanza. At this juncture, it’s not a guarantee – not by a long shot – that UNC will make the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

Miami recently lost to a bad Florida State squad at the buzzer, and the Hurricanes squandered a 25-point lead versus the Seminoles at home.

I’m not sold on either Clemson or N.C. State. Both have been a little up and down lately. Pittsburgh is a serious contender to win the ACC regular-season crown, but the Panthers don’t own a great NET ranking. Pitt and the Tigers, though, did both recently crush the Orange.

What I’m getting at here is that there are no outstanding teams within the ACC in 2022-23. That’s, of course, just my opinion.

But while the Big 12 Conference has looked dominant, and other Power 5 leagues have produced highly ranked units, which ACC teams do you really trust to go deep in this spring’s Big Dance?

Lately, Duke may be playing as well as any other squad in the ACC. When fully healthy, to me, the Blue Devils have the most talented roster in the conference, but it’s also filled with top-flight freshmen, and Duke has a first-year head coach in Jon Scheyer.

Media reports in recent days have said that Scheyer, in fact, has won the most games of any first-year head coach in Duke’s storied history.

Recent NCAA Tournaments, though, have shown that teams stocked with veteran players have often cut down the nets in early April. Could a couple of ACC teams advance to the Elite Eight, Final Four or deeper in the 2023 March Madness?

Absolutely. But is the ACC a dominant force in the 2022-23 season? Respectfully, from my perspective, it is not. Far from it.

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