Could Syracuse be a smart bet to go deep in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament that begins Tuesday in Greensboro, N.C.?
Normally, that location would be a reason why it wouldn’t happen. Far from home. Hostile crowds vs. any team based in Carolina.
But, the sixth-seeded Orange drew a break when Tobacco Road residents Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest all landed in the other half of the bracket. If seeds hold, Syracuse would play Virginia Tech in Wednesday’s second round (after a bye Tuesday), then-No. 3 seed Louisville in Thursday’s quarterfinals. An upset of Louisville would bring No. 2 seed Virginia, No. 7 seed Notre Dame, or No. 10 seed Boston College.
Syracuse wouldn’t have to play Duke until the finals, if both make it that far.
There is a catch. “If seeds hold” means No. 10 seed Virginia Tech would have to beat No. 14 seed North Carolina on Tuesday. The Tar Heels would enjoy a home-state advantage over Syracuse on Wednesday night if they take out the Hokies.
Projections based on Ken Pomeroy’s market-respected computer rankings give Syracuse only a 16.3 percent chance of reaching the semifinals, an 8 percent chance of reaching the finals, and a 2 percent chance of winning. That would put “true” odds at 49/1 for the Orange cutting down the nets.
Pomeroy’s ACC favorites: Duke 40.6 percent, Louisville 23.7 percent, Florida State 17.9 percent.
Syracuse would have to run the table to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. With a 17-14 full-season record, 10-10 in the disappointing ACC, its résumé just doesn’t have enough high points. That should be enough motivation right there to create peak intensity.
The problem is … that may not create peak defense. Coach Jim Boeheim’s tricky zone that’s usually the strength of the program just isn’t disrupting opponents this season. Pomeroy ranked Syracuse 133rd nationally in “adjusted defensive efficiency,” entering the week, which is scoring adjusted for pace and opponents. That after Syracuse ranked 30th last season and fifth the year before.
So, this isn’t, “Anything can happen on a neutral court with that great Syracuse defense.” It’s, “How can this soft defense play well enough to cash your ticket day-by-day?” Note that Syracuse hasn’t won more than two games in a row since late January.
A win and cover Wednesday against a hopefully tired opponent? Surely possible. A deep run? Pomeroy’s projections are properly pessimistic.
Here’s a quick look at VSiN’s estimated “market” power ratings for the ACC entering the tournament. You can use these to project tentative spreads for any matchup. They are based on point spreads in recent games. Feel free to adjust as a new set of neutral-court numbers settle this week:
Duke 86, Florida State 84, Louisville 84, Virginia 82, NC State 80, Notre Dame 80, Syracuse 79, Clemson 78, North Carolina 78, Virginia Tech 76, Georgia Tech 76, Pittsburgh 74, Miami 74, Wake Forest 74, Boston College 70.
Back Wednesday to look at St. John’s and the Big East.