Syracuse Basketball: ACC must change hoops narrative, commish says

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports) /

Syracuse basketball and its Atlantic Coast Conference peers have to change the narrative surrounding the league, according to the conference’s commissioner.

In a recent article from ESPN senior writer Andrea Adelson, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said that he plans to meet with coaches and athletic directors from league members “as soon as the season ends to discuss ways to be more ‘proactive’ and ‘aggressive’ in changing the narrative surrounding the conference.”

Of course, I’d like to point out that ACC team Miami will suit up in the Final Four this coming weekend, with the Hurricanes to face Connecticut. But I do get what Phillips is saying.

In each of the past two NCAA Tournaments, the ACC has received five bids. Miami is the last league group standing in the 2023 Big Dance. A year ago, the Hurricanes reached the Elite Eight in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, while Duke went to the Final Four and North Carolina got to the title game.

Syracuse basketball and the ACC have been down over the past two terms.

In 2021-22, the Orange endured a 16-17 overall record. In 2022-23, the ‘Cuse sported a 17-15 mark. Syracuse basketball, by and large, has struggled since joining the ACC from the Big East Conference in 2013-14, save for strong March Madness runs in 2016, 2018 and 2021 as double-digit seeds.

But even amid the Orange’s woes as an ACC member, the conference has often been thought of as the No. 1 or the No. 2 league across the country, although not in 2021-22 or 2022-23. Let’s not forget that Duke won a national title in 2015.

North Carolina reached the championship contest in 2016 and won the whole thing in 2017. Virginia cut down the nets in 2019. The ACC had two teams in the Final Four in 2022, and it has one in the national semifinals in 2023.

Adelson’s piece noted that Phillips and other ACC stakeholders were disappointed that the conference only landed five Big Dance berths this season, with Clemson and North Carolina on the bubble.

The Tar Heels were a major disappointment in 2022-23. After finishing as the national runner-up to Kansas in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, UNC was the preseason No. 1 squad ahead of 2022-23. North Carolina couldn’t compile enough quadrant-one victories to secure an at-large berth to the 2023 March Madness.

Adelson wrote, “This is the first time since the league expanded to 15 teams in 2013 that it has gone back-to-back seasons with only five tournament bids.”

Phillips says the selection committee for the Big Dance is relying too much on the NCAA NET rankings rather than focusing on the eye test – that is, how teams actually play on the court.

He also says the transfer portal’s impact on rosters can greatly influence outcomes in teams’ non-conference schedules, but that’s true of college squads in every league, not just the ACC.

"Said Phillips: “We have to portray ourselves in a different way, and maybe it’s our scheduling, maybe it’s our providing information back to the committee, but we’re going to be aggressive in how we look at it – but we’re also going to be proactive. We feel the narrative hasn’t been quite right the last two years. We’re going to try to do something about that in the offseason.”"

Even though the ACC hasn’t landed nearly as many bids to the NCAA Tournament in 2022 and 2023 as other leagues, whether the Big 12 Conference, the Big Ten Conference or others, ACC teams have made the most of their opportunities, given that Duke, UNC and Miami have all reached the Final Four over the past two seasons.

Of course Phillips wants to see more ACC squads make March Madness. I want that, too. Particularly as it pertains to Syracuse basketball. Hopefully, new head coach Adrian Autry will get the Orange back on track.

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