Syracuse Basketball: Statement win vs. No. 7 UNC, but can ‘Cuse make run to the Big Dance?

Syracuse basketball scored a huge win over No. 7 North Carolina, but 'Cuse doesn't have many future quadrant-one chances.
Syracuse basketball scored a huge win over No. 7 North Carolina, but 'Cuse doesn't have many future quadrant-one chances. / Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

First-year head coach Adrian Autry and his Syracuse basketball team notched a massive upset of No. 7 North Carolina earlier this week on the Hill.

That result is a coveted quadrant-one success for the Orange, its second so far in the 2023-24 season. And while stunning the top-10 Tar Heels was a signature success for the ‘Cuse, the Orange is still way removed from the proverbial bubble for this spring’s NCAA Tournament.

At this juncture in 2023-24, Syracuse basketball is 16-9 overall and 7-7 in Atlantic Coast Conference competition. The Orange has a half-dozen regular-season games left before the ACC Tournament commences in Washington, D.C., next month.

This Saturday, the ‘Cuse will next face Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Four of the Orange’s final six regular-season contests are on the road.

For Syracuse basketball to realistically enter the conversation for an invite to the 2024 Big Dance following a two-year absence from March Madness, the ‘Cuse will have to string together a lot of victories over the next few weeks – and that still may not prove enough to hear its name called on Selection Sunday, short of winning the ACC Tournament.

Let’s look at the Syracuse basketball post-season resume and its upcoming foes.

Here is the Orange’s current resume, at the time of this writing:
No. 85 in the NCAA NET rankings
12-2 at home
2-5 on the road
1-2 on neutral floors
*The Orange’s win over Chaminade last November at the 2023 Allstate Maui Invitational in Honolulu doesn’t officially count toward the team’s post-season resume in the NCAA’s eyes, because the Silverswords are a Division II program.

2-7 in Quadrant 1
3-1 in Quadrant 2
6-1 in Quadrant 3
4-0 in Quadrant 4
*See above regarding the Orange’s victory against Chaminade and why it isn’t included in SU’s quadrant-related resume.

Now here is the Syracuse basketball upcoming regular-season calendar:
At Georgia Tech on February 17
NET Ranking: No. 141
Quadrant: 3 (*could move to Quadrant 2 if Georgia Tech climbs to No. 135 or better)

At N.C. State on February 20
NET Ranking: No. 80
Quadrant: 2 (*could move to Quadrant 1 if N.C. State climbs to No. 75 or better)

Notre Dame at the Dome on February 24
NET Ranking: No. 157
Quadrant: 3

Virginia Tech at the Dome on February 27
NET Ranking: No. 60
Quadrant: 2

At Louisville on March 2
NET Ranking: No. 178
Quadrant: 3

At Clemson on March 5
NET Ranking: No. 29
Quadrant: 1

As you can see, even with the Orange playing a lot of road games to close out the 2023-24 regular season, it’s entirely feasible that only the finale at Clemson will prove a quadrant-one opportunity. That’s problematic.

It’s important to mention that teams’ respective NET rankings will ebb and flow, and I guess that potentially could help the ‘Cuse depending on how its 2023-24 opponents fare for the rest of this season.

For example, Syracuse basketball defeated Pac-12 Conference member Oregon at a neutral site last December. It’s a quadrant-two win for the ‘Cuse at this point, given the Ducks’ NET ranking of No. 63 when I wrote this story. However, should Oregon move up to No. 50 or better in the NET, it could turn into a quad-one triumph for the Orange, which would be big.

To me, all of the remaining regular-season affairs for the ‘Cuse are “winnable,” especially if SU plays like it did this past Tuesday evening versus UNC.

That being said, Syracuse basketball shot the lights out against the Tar Heels, and by and large this term, the Orange isn’t a great shooting unit.

What’s more, as North Carolina found out against the ‘Cuse, it’s really tough to prevail on the road in the major conferences. Syracuse basketball, as you’ll see above, doesn’t have a good road record in 2023-24.

So while upcoming foes like Georgia Tech and Louisville are having sub-par stanzas, it’s no cakewalk for the Orange to beat these opponents away from the JMA Wireless Dome.

I’ll say this. The ‘Cuse must knock off Clemson and former SU guard Joe Girard III on March 5, while also taking care of virtually all of these other upcoming foes.

It’s true that the Orange will have opportunities to notch high-quality wins at a neutral site at the ACC Tournament in D.C., however, since joining this league from the Big East Conference in 2013-14, the ‘Cuse has mightily struggled in the ACC Tournament.

I’m not a bracketologist, but in my opinion, Syracuse basketball has to go 5-1 in these final six regular-season games, including a victory at N.C. State or at Clemson, to have a shot of getting to the Big Dance.

Under that scenario, prior to the ACC Tournament kicking off, the Orange would sit at 21-10 overall and 12-8 in conference play. Then two wins in the ACC Tournament could propel the ‘Cuse into the NCAA Tournament.

But as I’ve said on many occasions lately, it’s not just the Orange securing wins that’s important. It’s vital that Syracuse basketball defeats teams that will move the needle as it pertains to the squad’s NET ranking, and there doesn’t appear to be too many chances remaining for the ‘Cuse in that regard.

Syracuse Basketball: Keep grinding, Chance Westry. You got this.. Syracuse Basketball: Keep grinding, Chance Westry. You got this.. dark. Next