Syracuse Basketball: Here’s how ‘Cuse has a realistic path to NCAA Tournament invite

Syracuse basketball still has work to do for a possible Big Dance invite, but it does have a path to get into March Madness.
Syracuse basketball still has work to do for a possible Big Dance invite, but it does have a path to get into March Madness. / Rich Barnes/GettyImages

Syracuse basketball is coming down the final stretch of its 2023-24 regular season, with the ACC Tournament then taking place next month in our nation’s capital.

After that, hopefully, the Orange will find itself in the running for an invite to this spring’s NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence from the annual March Madness event.

At this juncture in 2023-24, the ‘Cuse still has work to do before it can feel anything close to comfortable about hearing its name called on Selection Sunday.

Bracketologists, by and large, do not have the Orange super close to the proverbial bubble. The team’s NCAA NET ranking isn’t great. The ‘Cuse needs more coveted quadrant-one victories.

Head coach Adrian Autry has said that SU deserves to be included in the conversation for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, citing that his team has some quality wins at home and on the road.

Syracuse basketball does have a path to get to the Big Dance.

On Saturday, during the ESPN broadcast of the Orange’s nail-biting triumph against Notre Dame at the JMA Wireless Dome, Hall of Famer and former long-time ‘Cuse head coach Jim Boeheim called the NET rankings “ridiculous.”

He then went on to say that if Syracuse basketball can get to at least 20 wins, the Orange has a “shot” at reaching March Madness. I agree with both of those statements from Boeheim, whose legendary career was celebrated over the weekend by SU Athletics.

When I wrote this column on Sunday, the ‘Cuse (18-10, 9-8 in the ACC) sat alone in the No. 8 spot of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings. The Orange, which went 9-2 during its non-conference docket, has won two straight and gone 4-2 over its last six league affairs.

Here is the remainder of the 2023-24 regular season calendar for the ‘Cuse:

Virginia Tech at the Dome on February 27
NET Ranking: No. 57
Quadrant: 2

At Louisville on March 2
NET Ranking: No. 206
Quadrant: 3

At Clemson on March 5
NET Ranking: No. 24
Quadrant: 1

Currently, Syracuse basketball has two quadrant-one successes, at home versus North Carolina and at Pittsburgh. If N.C. State creeps into the top 75 of the NET, the Orange’s road win over the Wolfpack would transform into a quadrant-one victory.

Simultaneously, if Oregon moves into the NET’s top 50, the Syracuse basketball win over the Ducks last December at a neutral site would become a quadrant-one triumph. This could potentially give the ‘Cuse four quadrant-one wins.

The Orange’s current post-season resume isn’t great, but it’s not awful, either.

Syracuse basketball has that home stunner over top-10 North Carolina. The ‘Cuse has swept both Pittsburgh and N.C. State, two solid ACC groups.

Oregon was minus a few key players, but Syracuse basketball defeating the Ducks on a neutral floor was still a good result.

The Orange has beaten Colgate, and the Raiders are in first place within the Patriot League. The ‘Cuse defeated LSU on the Hill, and while the Tigers aren’t overly impressive this season, LSU did recently knock off top-20 Kentucky.

By and large, Syracuse basketball has fallen to high-quality foes, although many of those setbacks were by wide margins. The Orange’s road losses to both Boston College and Georgia Tech were daggers.

The ‘Cuse losing at home to Clemson and Florida State was also not good, particularly the one versus Clemson, because the teams were tied relatively late in that ACC affair, and it was a quadrant-one opportunity for Syracuse basketball.

By the way, on Sunday, the Orange’s NET ranking was No. 84, which seems a bit low for a team that’s currently over .500 in its league games. Then again, the ACC is under-rated in my humble opinion, something that ‘Cuse athletics director John Wildhack recently discussed.

Also on Sunday, KenPom placed Syracuse basketball at No. 84 overall, No. 98 in adjusted offensive efficiency and No. 82 in adjusted defensive efficiency.

I put out a post on X this past Sunday morning where I asked fellow ‘Cuse fans to weigh in on what the Orange must do to get an invite to the NCAA Tournament. There are some interesting responses in the comments’ section.

To me, it’s relatively simple. Syracuse basketball has to beat Virginia Tech at home and Louisville on the road. Those are must-win games. If the Orange can upset Clemson on the road and get another quadrant-one victory, that would be massive.

I’m not a bracketologist, but I believe if the ‘Cuse goes 2-1 in its final three regular-season contests, and then wins two in the ACC Tournament, it has a good shot to get in.

If the Orange goes 3-0 and then grabs at least one victory in the ACC Tournament, I also think Syracuse basketball would have a solid shot to get in.

Under both scenarios, the ‘Cuse would have at least 22 total victories in 2023-24, assuming my math is correct, which is never a given.

Of course, getting one or more additional quadrant-one successes is imperative. It should prove an exciting and nerve-wracking next few weeks for Syracuse basketball and its fan base.

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