Heading into Syracuse’s matchup with Florida State, Syracuse may have been on “the bubble,” but it was sitting pretty nicely on the right side of same. A win over a mediocre Florida State team would be enough to start planning for one of the eight nice destinations reserved for the Big Dance. Instead, Syracuse lost–for the same reasons that it often lost this year–placing itself right on the bubble and allowing other teams to share control of the Orange destiny.
This is what ESPN’s Bubble Watch had to say about Syracuse before the FSU game:
Syracuse [19-11 (9-8), RPI: 52, SOS: 37] When your career wins tally runs just shy of four digits, you don’t much go in for moral victories. Were Jim Boeheim inclined, even briefly, to entertain such a heretical notion, Monday night’s 75-70 loss at North Carolina would be a fine time to do so. The Orange played a very good team to a near-draw on the road; they even cut a 13-point second half lead to only one with two minutes left to play. And they did so despite guards Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney’s combined 3-of-13 effort from 3 and 9-of-27 night overall. Even forward Tyler Roberson — who spent the past week in the deepest and darkest recesses of Boeheim’s doghouse — grabbed 11 rebounds. It was a good night in every way but the final score. Whether that will mean much to Syracuse’s currently solid but nonetheless still vulnerable odds of making the NCAA tournament probably will have more to do with Saturday’s trip to Florida State (and, most likely, how the ACC tournament unfolds). But if the eye test can be graded on a curve — and really, isn’t that the whole point — Monday was a win.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, meanwhile, had Syracuse fairly comfortable as a 9-seed.
With the loss, Syracuse drops to 19-12 overall and 9-9 in ACC play. This is 10th in the ACC, as Virginia Tech and Clemson each got to 10-8, while Pitt’s 9-9 includes two wins over the Orange.
If that was not bad enough, Syracuse now has to play that very same Pitt team in the ACC tournament. Even when Syracuse is dominant, Pitt gives it trouble. With a middling Syracuse team, the law of averages is not quite what it might ordinarily be–a third loss is far from unlikely. If so, Syracuse will be merely 19-13. That makes for some short nails on selection Sunday.
If Syracuse can beat Pitt, it will get more comfort, but then have to face the #1 seed in the ACC. Whomever that is, it will be a daunting matchup, leaving Syracuse very likely to lose and end up at 20-13. So there it is–a best case scenario of 20-13.
But this is not shocking. For a good shooting team, Syracuse does not shoot well consistently. This is because you can count on several poor shots from a shot-selection standpoint every game. These might as well be turnovers–which are also on the rise. With spotty rebounding and very little inside presence on either side of the court, all there is most night is a hope that they will out shoot the opponent. Which brings things back to the aforementioned inconsistency and shot selection.
To be sure, if Syracuse was to get into the Big Dance and then get into the 2nd round, some higher seeds would have to be pretty nervous about Syracuse having a great shooting night and pulling the upset. Even that is only likely to happen once, meaning that the prospects of a deep march into March are as slim as for those who win the tiniest of conference automatic bids. It will be nice to be on the bracket, but a second weekend would be the upside and a not very likely one at that.
For a down year muddied by NBA defections and NCAA suspension follies, the season could have been much worse. Much much worse. Nevertheless, this is a team that is doing everything it can to not control its own destiny, which usually ends poorly. This team is on the bubble because it is a bubble team.