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Bubble Watch: Where Does Syracuse Stand?

Breaking down Syracuse's NCAA resume compared to other bubble teams.

Syracuse is firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble heading into their regular season finale against Georgia Tech on Saturday. While many experts consider the Orange in with a victory on Senior Day, it is anything but a sure thing. Let's take a look at where SU stands compared to other bubble teams. 

For purposes of this comparison, the top 100, 50 and 25 wins are based on current RPI. Key wins are top 25 RPI wins. Bad losses are losses against teams ranked 100 or worse in the RPI. SOS stands for strength of schedule.

Category Syracuse USC Cal Seton Hall Prov Marq Wake Rhode Island Georgia
Record 17-13 21-8 19-9 19-10 19-11 18-11 17-12 20-9 18-12
Road  2-8 6-5 3-4 3-6 3-7 4-6 5-8 7-5 5-6
Neutral 0-2 3-0 1-2 4-2 1-1 1-2 1-1 1-1 1-1
Conf 9-8 8-8 10-6 9-8 9-8 9-8 8-9 12-5 9-8
vs Top 100 8-10 5-7 4-8 9-9 10-8 9-10 7-12 4-7 8-11
vs Top 50 6-7 2-5 1-7 3-6 6-7 5-6 2-9 2-3 1-7
vs Top 25 3-4 2-5 0-6 1-5 2-5 2-3 1-7 2-3 0-5
RPI 76 38 51 48 54 69 45 41 52
Bad Losses 3 1 1 1 0 1 0 2 1
SOS 50 61 37 57 42 65 25 38 19
Category Syracuse Va Tech Ga Tech Tenn TCU Kansas St Houston Vandy Northwestern
Record 17-13 21-8 16-13 15-15 16-13 18-12 20-8 16-14 21-9
Road 2-8 4-6 2-9 4-6 3-7 5-6 6-4 5-6 5-5
Neutral 0-2 2-1 0-0 0-3 1-0 3-1 3-0 1-3 2-1
Conf 9-8 10-7 8-9 7-10 6-11 7-10 11-5 9-8 10-7
vs Top 100 8-10 12-7 7-11 8-12 5-13 5-11 3-5 9-13 10-9
vs Top 50 6-7 4-6 4-7 2-10 2-10 3-8 2-4 4-7 3-6
vs Top 25 3-4 2-5 4-4 1-5 0-7 2-4 0-3 1-5 1-4
RPI 76 34 89 65 58 67 53 47 50
Bad Losses 3 0 2 3 1 1 3 1 0
SOS 50 79 55 10 24 52 71 2 80

When you look at all of the resumes, Syracuse actually compares quite favorably to the group of bubble teams. Syracuse No one has more top 50 wins than Syracuse and only Georgia Tech has more top 25 victories. Only Providence can match Syracuse in top 50 wins. The teams with significantly better strength of schedules than SU (TCU, Vandy, Tennessee, Georgia) all have other flaws in their resumes that suggests Syracuse should be ahead of them. 

Vanderbilt and Tennessee's overall record leave much to be desired. Each only has one top 25 win. Georgia is just 1-7 against the top 50 and does not have a single top 25 win. Simply put, these schools do not have enough quality wins to vault the Orange. 

TCU is just 2-10 against the top 50 and also does not have a top 25 win. 

Syracuse's biggest issue is that 2-10 record in road and neutral games. Their six top 50 wins and three top 25 wins help offset that to some extent. 

Almost everyone has at least one bad loss, with most having multiple. 

Virginia Tech is the school that should be clearly ahead of Syracuse. They have a better record, beat the Orange head to head, have a better top 100 winning percentage and were better away from home. 

Other schools with significantly better overall records than SU (Northwestern, USC, Cal, Houston and Rhode Island) all have other resume deficiencies that aid the Orange's cause. Northwestern has just one top 25 win and half the number of top 50 wins compared to Syracuse. The Wildcats' strength of schedule is also worse. 

Houston plays in an inferior conference and lacks a top 25 win. They do, however, have a much better record away from home at 9-4. 

USC is 9-5 away from home, has two top 25 wins and five fewer losses than Syracuse. That is tough to overcome. Similarly, Cal has four fewer losses and twice as many wins away from home compared to SU. Cal not having a top 25 win and being 1-7 against the top 50 means 18 of the Bears 19 wins were outside of the top 50. Fifteen outside of the top 100. Cal is 0-6 against the top 25. 

Rhode Island is an interesting case. They play in a non major conference, have five more wins than Syracuse away from home and have four fewer losses. Syracuse has more top 50 wins, however. 

Ultimately, this comes down to what the committee views as the most important criteria. Top 50 wins always seem to be important, which helps Syracuse. As RPI is weighted less each year by the committed, the Orange's weakness in that metric seems to be minimized this year. 

One criteria that is viewed as important is road and neutral record. Syracuse currently stands at 2-10 in those games, and could fall to 2-11 with a loss in their first ACC Tournament game. But with a weak bubble, they still have a strong argument. 

Looking at the resumes as a whole, Virginia Tech, USC, Rhode Island and Northwestern have the upper hand on Syracuse. Everyone else is either even or behind the Orange. 

Meaning, a win over Georgia Tech would essentially eliminate the Yellow Jackets and push Syracuse into an even better position. A loss would mean two ACC Tournament wins would likely be necessary in order to ensure an NCAA Tournament berth. A win over Georgia Tech and in their first ACC Tournament game would make the Orange a lock. 

Wake Forest, Georgia, Tennessee, Vandy and TCU should all be on the outside looking in and currently in a worse position than Syracuse. Wake got their first top 25 win Wednesday night by knocking off Louisville. That should not be enough as of right now, however, to push them last Syracuse. Especially since SU owns the head-to-head victory. 

The committee certainly has their work cut out for them as they evaluate a bubble that is weaker than it has been in recent memory. The Orange have put themselves in position to make the Big Dance, and control their fate if they continue to win. 


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