When Trevor Cooney's shot clanged off the side of the rim and the clock zeroed out, Syracuse's NCAA Tournament hopes seemed lost. The ACC Tournament matchup with Pittsburgh had been billed as a play-in game. So when the Orange lost, a bid appeared unlikely.
Then, upon evaluating the resume as compared to other bubble teams, Syracuse had a legitimate argument. Few could boast the combination of quality neutral court and road wins with a high strength of schedule. Those factors not only put Syracuse in, but put them in as a 10-seed and avoided a play-in game.
The Orange making the field was met with a combination of joy amongst the Syracuse fan base and vitriol from fans of other teams and even some media members. Doug Gottlieb openly ripped the selection on CBS. Pat Forde called the selection the "most baffling" of this year's field. Both were wrong.
Despite the prognosticators, the Orange was absolutely deserving of their placement on Selection Sunday. Let's compare them to a few of the "biggest snubs" to prove that sentiment.
Syracuse vs Monmouth
Syracuse has a strength of schedule of 38, while Monmouth's (27-7) was 209. A lot of people point to Monmouth's non-conference schedule as a reason why they should have gotten the nod. The numbers, however, do not bear that out. Syracuse's non-conference strength of schedule was 120, while Monmouth's was 129. So Syracuse has the edge there.
Monmouth does have some strong wins, however. They knocked off Notre Dame, USC, UCLA and Iona. Only ND and USC were top 50 wins, a metric that was a big factor in the selection committee's decisions. Syracuse claims five such victories compared to two. The Orange's were over St. Bonaventure, Texas A&M, UConn, Notre Dame and Duke.
In the loss column, Syracuse only had one loss to a team with an RPI of 150 or worse, while Monmouth had three such defeats.
Some credit Monmouth for their win over Georgetown as a quality win. Unfortunately, that cannot be considered a quality win for the Hawks while also being a bad loss for the Orange.
Syracuse vs San Diego State
San Diego State's strength of schedule was 70 overall, thanks to playing in a weak conference. Their non-conference strength of schedule was five, but they were only 1-4 against the top 50 and 3-7 against the top 100. That poor showing contributed to their down fall. Syracuse, conversely, had five top 50 wins.
San Diego State also had a horrible loss to 8-21 San Diego, who had an RPI of 301. That loss is significantly worse than Syracuse's to Georgetown and St. John's. The lack of top 50 wins are what really hurt the Aztecs when comparing their resume to Syracuse.
Syracuse vs St. Mary's
The Gails have the best record of the snubs, but that does not make their resume impressive. Eighteen of those wins were against teams with an RPI of over 150. St. Mary's only beat one top 50 team in Gonzaga, though they did knock them off twice.
Fact of the matter is, despite a strong record, it was largely accomplished against poor competition. Hence their 164 strength of schedule and 165 non-conference strength of schedule. Both are significantly worse than Syracuse and the Orange also have those five top 50 wins, three of which were either on the road or on a neutral court.
What the committee said by putting Syracuse in over St. Mary's is that quality wins are more important than quantity of wins. That is in line with decisions they've made in the past.
Syracuse vs Florida
This should not even be a discussion, really, but it is one some are having. The Gators finished the season 19-14 (10-10) in the SEC, a much weaker conference than the ACC. Their strength of schedule was impressive at 11, much higher than Syracuse's 41.
However, Florida did not rack up the quality wins that Syracuse did. Their only top 50 wins were St. Joe's and West Virginia, two quality teams. They combined that with 7 top 50 losses, giving them worse winning percentage against the best competition on their schedule compared to Syracuse.
The three more wins on the Orange's resume against the top 50 put them over the edge, combined with a better overall record and equal play within a better conference.
Syracuse vs South Carolina
The Gamecocks had a solid 23-8 record. Unfortunately, their strength of schedule was 159 and non-conference strength of schedule was 300. Simply put, South Carolina needed to play somebody in the non-conference to deserve a bid. They did not and were not included. Syracuse's strength of schedule, both overall and non-conference, was significantly better.
South Carolina also only played two top 50 teams this season, going 1-1 in those games. With three losses to sub 100 teams, including two that were sub-150, they just did not have the resume to match up with Syracuse or other bubble teams.