SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- After starting the season 6-0, Syracuse is now on the outside looking in for an NCAA Tournament bid. After the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament win, the Orange were ranked as high as 14th in the country. But now, that seems like an eternity ago.
Syracuse does have two wins over top-25 teams this season, No. 18 Connecticut and No. 25 Texas A&M. However, the Orange are on a 4-game losing streak, which has put their NCAA Tournament dreams in severe jeopardy.
Can Syracuse regroup and make the Tournament? Here are five things that would need to happen in order to do so:
1. Win the ACC Tournament or, at worst, make a run: This is the most obvious, and most unrealistic, option for the Orange to make the NCAA Tournament. Winning the ACC Tournament will give SU an automatic bid for the big dance come March, but the way Syracuse is playing, there's no reason to believe this will happen. Making a run in the ACC Tournament is a different story, and possible. We all saw what the Orange did in their first tournament this season. SU has coaching, senior leadership, shooting and defense - all ingredients to win a tournament, or make a run.
2. Win 9 ACC games: If Syracuse wants to stay at, or above, .500, they'll need to win nine of their next fourteen games. Currently 0-4 in league play, Syracuse will likely need to stay .500 in order to have a realistic shot at the NCAA Tournament. The Orange still have to play Virginia, Duke, North Carolina and Pittsburgh for a second time, Notre Dame and Louisville, among eight others. It won't be easy, but it's apparent the Orange will need to upset some of the best in the conference to make a run. Nine ACC wins would put the Orange at 19 wins heading into the ACC Tournament - (19-12, 9-9).
3. Undefeated at home: After looking at the schedule, Syracuse cannot afford to lose another home game. Their remaining games at the Carrier Dome are: Boston College, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Pittsburgh and NC State. If the Orange do run the table at home, they'll only have to win two ACC road games this season to stay at .500 -- which would almost be a miracle, at this point.
4. Rebound: In Saturday's loss to No. 6 North Carolina, Syracuse won the rebounding battle, 35-33. Although they didn't win the game, they played with a top team in the country for virtually the entire game. It did take 27 points from Trevor Cooney to keep the Orange close, but remember, Michael Gbinije was a non-factor all night. When they're playing well, there's no question Syracuse is one of the better teams in the ACC. But when they're not hitting shots or rebounding, they could lose to anyone (St. John's, Wisconsin, Georgetown, etc.).
5. Stay healthy: Surprisingly, Syracuse hasn't been hit with the injury bug yet this season. Freshman Frank Howard missed two games with an undisclosed virus, but that's the only issue they've faced this season. Junior center Dajuan Coleman appears to have stayed healthy so far this season, which is somewhat surprising given his history. There are a lot of things that need to fall in the Orange's favor the rest of the season, and good health is one of those things. They just simply cannot afford to lose anyone.