‘Cuse Craziness: Syracuse Women’s Basketball NCAA Tournament Preview
By A.J. Fabbri
CitrusTV Women’s Basketball Reporter
It’s the most wonderful time of the year to be a college basketball fan. The sun is trying to shine, the birds are chirping, and No. 18 Syracuse (24-8, 11-5 Atlantic Coast) is headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in head coach Quentin Hillsman’s 12 year tenure.
But the big question still remains: where will they be seeded?
With Selection Monday set for March 18th, I’m here to attempt to answer that as part of some Syracuse-centric bracketology.
Where will the committee seed Syracuse?
It’s called March Madness for a reason, and it’s impossible to know exactly what the committee is thinking. But I think SU is safely locked in as a 3 seed.
Back on March 4th, the selection committee revealed the top 16 seeds for the Tournament. The committee slotted SU as the 15th overall seed, or a four seed, if you break things down by the region.*
That was big news for the Orange. Beating No. 22 Florida State and Boston College on the road to close out the regular season, SU got the nod Hillsman had been looking for all year. They replaced a Marquette team that lost two of its final four and a Gonzaga squad that dropped its second WCC game to Brigham Young.
Then the conference tournament chaos began.
The Orange bolstered its resume big time by upsetting the 4th seeded Miami Hurricanes in the ACC quarterfinals to advance to the conference final four.
That win came on March 8th at around 1:30 in the afternoon. It wasn’t the only victory the Orange would score.
At around 8:30 pm that very same day, then No. 12 South Carolina, who was slotted ahead of Syracuse by the selection committee, was shockingly upset in the Southeastern Conference Tournament by 10th seeded Arkansas.
Out in Las Vegas, another tournament shocker helped the Orange. Then No. 11 Oregon state, who was also slotted as a three seed by the committee, fell to 11th seeded Washington in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.
At the beginning of the day, Syracuse was barely holding on to a four seed. By the time the Orange went to sleep on March 8th, they had potentially elevated themselves to a three seed.
With all of the Power Five conference tournaments complete, the top 16 seeds in the field of 64 are a little clearer.
Here’s my take on the top 16:
No. 1 Seeds:
Baylor (Big 12 regular season champ, conference tournament champ)
UConn (AAC regular season champ, conference tournament champ)
Notre Dame (ACC regular season co-champ, conference tournament champ)
Mississippi State (SEC regular season champ, conference tournament champ)
No. 2 Seeds:
Louisville (ACC regular season co-champ, conference tournament runner-up)
Stanford (PAC-12 regular season champ, conference tournament champ)
Oregon (PAC-12 regular season champ, conference tournament runner-up)
Iowa (Big Ten conference tournament champ)
No. 3 Seeds:
NC State (3rd in ACC, conference tournament semi-finalist
Maryland (1st in Big Ten, conference tournament finalist
Syracuse (5th in ACC, conference tournament semi-finalist)
Iowa State (2nd in Big 12, conference tournament finalist)
No. 4 Seeds:
Miami (4th in ACC, conference tournament quarter-finalist)
South Carolina (2nd in SEC, conference tournament quarter-finalist)
Oregon State (3rd in PAC-12, conference tournament quarter-finalist)
Texas A&M (3rd in SEC, conference tournament semi-finalist)
The 1 and 2 seed lines are essentially set in stone. I’d be shocked if anything changed there.
But there is a ton to dissect in the 3 and 4 lines.
North Carolina State is effectively a lock as the top 3 seed. They finished 3rd in the ACC, are currently 9th in RPI and were just 10 points away from upsetting Louisville in the conference semifinal.
No. 9 Maryland, No. 15 Syracuse, No. 13 Iowa State and No. 19 Miami are all viable options for 3s.
There’s a bunch of criteria to compare, and I’m a visual learner. Behold:
In the end, I bumped the Orange over the Hurricanes because of the overall body of work. Yes, Miami beat SU in the Dome by double digits. Yes, the Canes took down Notre Dame in the regular season.
But of the teams we’re comparing, Miami has the lowest RPI (19), the fewest wins against RPI top 50 teams, or Quadrant one teams (6), and a strength of schedule ranked 31st, according to WarrenNolan.com.
To compare, Syracuse is 10th in RPI, 5th in strength of schedule and has nine wins against Quadrant one opponents. The 92-85 victory over Miami in the ACC Tournament becomes crucial.
Coach Hillsman went out and scheduled difficult non-conference opponents such as Oregon, Minnesota, DePaul and Central Florida. The committee should reward them for that. The Orange may not have had the flashiest wins in the ACC, but their strong start against a challenging non-conference schedule, and winning three of their final four games should be enough to lock up a 3 seed.
OK… So What?
So Syracuse could play its opening round games in the Carrier Dome. That’s big for the Orange.
The past two years, SU has been on the road in the Big Dance, and hasn’t made it out of the first weekend. When SU went on their Final Four run back in 2016, they were a 4 seed and played their first two rounds inside the Loud House. An average of over 3,000 fans were inside the Dome for those games.
Syracuse was 10-3 at home this year.
Who Will They Play?
It’s always tough to decipher matchups before the brackets come out, but that is why CitrusTV pays me the big bucks.
Currently, ESPN Bracketologist Charlie Creme has SU hosting the winner of the America East. Top seeded Maine takes on Hartford in that conference’s final on Friday at 5 pm.
There are a few other potentially intriguing matchups for the Orange in the first weekend as well. Fordham, who earned a bid by locking up the A-10, sits on the 14 line according to Creme. Buffalo is still alive in the MAC Tournament, but could snag an at large bid if they end up falling to Central Michigan. They are rumored as an 11 seed, and could be a potential second round matchup for the Orange. The Bulls made it to the Sweet 16 last year after upsetting South Florida and Florida State.
A couple of New York State matchups could be big draws inside the Dome.
Lastly, Bucknell clinched the Patriot League, and is resting as a 14 seed as well. That could be an interesting rematch from earlier this year, when the Orange took down the Bison 70-56 back on November 18th. Bucknell kept the game within 10 points until the final minutes.
Keep in mind, I could be absolutely wrong about every part of this. We’ll have to wait and see! The Orange will discover their fate when the bracket is revealed Monday, March 18th at 7pm.
*Courtesy of ESPN