Syracuse Basketball: Jim Boeheim is right – the NCAA's NET rankings are ridiculous

Hall of Famer and former long-time Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim says the NET rankings are ridiculous. We agree.
Hall of Famer and former long-time Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim says the NET rankings are ridiculous. We agree. / Peyton Williams/GettyImages

Last Saturday afternoon, as Syracuse basketball squeaked by Notre Dame at the JMA Wireless Dome, SU Athletics honored the storied career of Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim.

During that Atlantic Coast Conference clash, the legendary former head coach of the Orange said on the ESPN broadcast that the NCAA NET rankings are “ridiculous.”

I agree with that.

Boeheim also said that if the ‘Cuse can close out the 2023-24 regular season strong and get to 20-plus wins before the ACC Tournament later this month in Washington, D.C., Syracuse basketball has a “shot” at hearing its name called on Selection Sunday for this spring’s NCAA Tournament.

I agree with that as well.

The Orange still has work to do, though. This past Tuesday night, in the regular-season home finale for the team, the ‘Cuse played well in defeating Virginia Tech by 13 points.

Syracuse basketball has two road encounters on the docket coming up.

Where the Orange (19-10, 10-8 in the ACC) will finish in the league standings is yet to be determined. The ‘Cuse will play at Louisville this Saturday evening, followed by a road clash with Clemson next Tuesday night. SU can contend for a No. 4 to a No. 6 placement in the ACC, depending on how things play out over the next few days around the league.

Putting the upcoming ACC Tournament to the side for a second, if the Orange can somehow beat both Louisville and Clemson away from the Hill, that would get Syracuse basketball to 21-10 overall and 12-8 in conference competition.

Under that scenario – and I know conquering the Tigers on the road is a big “ask” – I can’t see how the ‘Cuse doesn’t work its way onto the right side of the proverbial bubble before the ACC Tournament and other league post-season tournaments get going.

However, when it comes to college basketball and all sports these days, we live in a society where analytics and metrics are talked about incessantly, studied and prioritized.

And if we’re looking at the Orange’s NET ranking, it’s not super great. I wrote this column on Wednesday night, so things could have shifted some by the time this article was published, but the ‘Cuse had a NET ranking hovering around the low 80s.

At that time, ahead of Syracuse basketball in the NET were teams such as Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Oregon and N.C. State.

In 2023-24, the Orange swept both Pittsburgh and N.C. State. The ‘Cuse just won its only regular-season game versus Virginia Tech. Last December, Syracuse basketball knocked off Oregon at a neutral site.

These NET rankings will ebb and flow. If the ‘Cuse continues to win, it could jump most – or all – of these other squads. What’s more, I know that the NET is a ratings system that looks at margin of victory or defeat, who you play and where you play them, strength of schedule, opponents’ strength of schedule, various efficiencies, etc.

I probably don’t fully understand the genesis behind the NET. I’m probably not alone there, either.

Now, in some regards, Orange fans want the foes mentioned above to keep on winning, to help the ‘Cuse get more quadrant-one successes.

For example, Syracuse basketball’s home victory over top-10 North Carolina and its road win against Pittsburgh are quadrant-one victories.

If N.C. State is in the top 75 of the NET, and Oregon is in the top 50 of the NET, those could be quadrant-one results for the Orange. What’s more, should the ‘Cuse triumph at Clemson, that’s another quadrant-one possibility.

A lot of factors are in play, but if Syracuse basketball wins out in the regular season and gets to 21-10 overall, and its NET ranking hasn’t moved into the 50s, then that’s absurd, in my humble opinion.

I guess that I’m old-school, in that I tend to focus on the eye test. Is the Orange, with its good but not great post-season resume, one of the top 68 squads across the country?

Most of its setbacks in 2023-24 are to high-quality groups, albeit often by wide margins. Syracuse basketball fell just twice at home in 2023-24, and I’d only say the Florida State loss at the Dome was a bad one.

The ‘Cuse has three true road wins, with two of them against solid programs in N.C. State and Pittsburgh. The Orange has an opportunity to boost that to five true road victories in the coming days.

The ‘Cuse, lately, is playing some of its best ball. It has won three straight and five of seven. Beat Louisville and Clemson – and that moves to five in a row, and seven of nine.

I don’t care what the NET says. If what I described above transpires, and Syracuse basketball doesn’t implode in the ACC Tournament early on, I see no reason why the Orange shouldn’t hear its name called on Selection Sunday.

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