Syracuse to use ACC play to bolster postseason resume

first_imgSyracuse has never made the NCAA Tournament with the four losses it ended its nonconference play with. But that’s over, and all that’s left for the Orange to do is perform in conference play.Syracuse (9-4) opens its Atlantic Coast Conference slate at Notre Dame (10-4, 0-1) Saturday. The ACC’s six teams in the AP Top-25 this week ranks second in the nation and SU will play all of them, including No. 1 Duke twice. Between potential ranked wins and notable road wins even against unranked teams, SU will get a shot at bolstering its postseason resume over the next two months.“Doesn’t matter who we play, doesn’t matter their schedule,” SU sophomore Oshae Brissett said. “Any team can be beat because they’re all working toward the same goal, to be at the top of the ACC.”In the 2016-17 season, SU beat three top-10 teams — capped by a win over then-No. 10 Duke on a buzzer-beating shot by then-Syracuse guard John Gillon. But SU coupled it with road losses to lower-tier teams like Boston College, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech. “No game’s gonna be easy now,” Brissett said after the Orange concluded their nonconference schedule on Dec. 29. “I feel like every game we’ve got to take serious now, and that’s something I’m gonna tell the new guys coming in.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBad losses are harder to come by in the ACC, though. The NCAA’s ratings power index (RPI) replacement, called NET, features eight ACC teams in the top 50 and 12 in the top 100. But the Orange are in need of a resume-boost, as four nonconference losses are more than SU has ever made the NCAA Tournament after accumulating. The conclusion of nonconference play gave SU head coach Jim Boeheim positive signs.“I thought that we just had more of a complete game than we’ve had,” Boeheim said on Dec. 29. “We had good practices which helps. We still got four or five practices ahead of us. I think the practices this week will help us. This will be the last time that we have extended time to really work on things.”After the third of those nonconference losses, at home to unranked Old Dominion on Dec. 15, Tyus Battle already raised the point of what the ACC can mean to Syracuse. Big wins are there for the taking almost every time an ACC team steps onto the floor. There’s Duke, the nation’s No. 1 team. Syracuse takes on the Blue Devils twice, first on the road Jan. 14 and then at home Feb. 23. While an Orange sweep is unlikely — Duke has three potential top-5 NBA Draft picks on its roster —Gillon’s banked 3-pointer in 2016-17 helped Syracuse upset a Duke team with four eventual first rounders. The 2-3 zone and raucous Carrier Dome crowd bring upset potential to the table.Todd Michalek | Staff PhotographerThere’s Virginia, Florida State and Virginia Tech: all top-10 teams. No. 15 North Carolina opened the season in the top 10, and SU plays the Tar Heels on the road, only raising the value of a win to the NCAA selection committee. North Carolina State has pulled off big wins already this season to move to No. 18, setting up a February matchup in Raleigh with more resume-boosting potential for the Orange.Louisville also received votes this week, and was one of the seven teams ESPN’s Joe Lunardi put in the Tournament field in his latest bracketology. A year ago, winning on the road at Miami and Louisville were two of the best wins of Syracuse’s season, and neither of those teams were ranked. Even the bubble teams in SU’s conference provide a shot at March relevancy. It starts at Notre Dame. A year ago, the Fighting Irish beat the Orange on a last-second steal, missed layup followed by a putback. Battle, who turned the ball over to lead to the winning bucket, called that loss “a rough one.” UND has battled health issues this season, though, suiting up just seven scholarship players in a loss Tuesday to Virginia Tech. And while Notre Dame ranks lower than Syracuse in NET and KenPom, it’s just the first test. Some could prove more difficult. But to make those matter, the only thing SU can do is ensure it passes the first.“Luckily we’re in the ACC,” Battle said after losing to Old Dominion. “So we play a lot of good teams, and we can get a lot of good wins.” Comments Published on January 3, 2019 at 5:56 pm Contact Billy: [email protected] | @Wheyen3 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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