There were no surprises on the first afternoon of the ACC tournament, as N.C. State and Boston College were mercifully sent into their respective offseasons. Pittsburgh stuck around an extra day, moving back to .500 with a victory over Georgia Tech.
That result could be described as puncturing the Yellow Jackets’ NCAA tournament hopes if they had still existed. They hadn’t. And so the early-round attention turns to another team with its share of problems away from home that is perceived as a postseason contender.
That would be Syracuse, a quirky team with a pair of graduate transfers (guards John Gillon and Andrew White) who have uncorked 40-point games in their lone seasons playing for Jim Boeheim.
The Orange (18-13) would be a sure-fire NCAA tournament team if the entire event was played in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse is 16-3 at home, with victories over the likes of Duke, Florida State, Miami and Virginia to its credit.
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No one would argue against the premise Syracuse is good on its own floor. But some basic math reveals the Orange is 2-10 in road and neutral games, and those victories came against Clemson (on a buzzer-beater) and N.C. State (in overtime). That’s not much for any team to brag about.
The absence of a noteworthy victory away from home stands in stark contrast to what Syracuse’s resume had going for it last March. Its profile had an edge-of-the-field vibe to it, but included a triumph at Duke and neutral-site defeats of Connecticut and Texas A&M. That differentiated the Orange in a good way, they landed a No. 10 seed and went on to win the NCAA tournament.
The lack of road success is a bad differentiator, and the only way to fix that is to beat Miami in Wednesday’s opening game. Add that victory, and the Orange stands a credible chance of hearing its name called on Selection Sunday. Lose, and it is probably NIT fodder.
(If it wins twice this week, it is probably good to go).
Orange fans are expected to have a healthy contingent on hand for the just-after-noon tip. It might feel like a home game, but it’s still on a neutral court. If Syracuse can secure something --- anything --- away from campus, it will help its cause considerably.
Three other things to look for on the second day of the tournament …
Duke’s stay at the tournament begins.
The real question is how long it lasts.
The fifth-seeded Blue Devils face Clemson in the afternoon’s second game, and it’s anyone’s guess if the team that won seven in a row between late January and mid-February arrives in New York or the one that dropped three of its last four does.
Those losses came by a combined 15 points, so it’s not as if the Blue Devils are playing dreadfully. But even when it had that winning streak, it didn’t win once by more than 10 points,
So Duke is likely to play close games. It might against Clemson on Wednesday, again on Thursday against Louisville and possibly even Friday if it makes the semifinals.
Mike Krzyzewski’s team didn’t materialize into a monster, but it can beat good teams. Stringing together a few such victories, though, might be difficult this week.
Wake Forest attempts to close the deal.
The most important task in front of Wake Forest on Tuesday was not to mess up against last-place Boston College on Tuesday. After struggling for about 25 minutes, the Demon Deacons (19-12) created some separation and made it through to the second round.
A loss might have torpedoed Wake’s NCAA tournament hopes. A victory merely provided a chance to polish their postseason profile.
Wake has won four in a row and will face Virginia Tech for the second time in five days. One more victory, and a second against the Hokies, probably provides enough cushion to get John Collins, Bryant Crawford and the rest of the Demon Deacons into the tournament for the first time since 2010.
Virginia-Pittsburgh rubber match.
The tournament goes deeper into the night starting Wednesday, but it’s debatable how worthwhile it will be to stay up late. Pittsburgh, the No. 14 seed, gets a rematch with a Virginia bunch it lost to 67-42 on Saturday.
In fairness, the Panthers did beat Virginia back in early January. And seniors Jamel Artis and Michael Young will presumably show up on time to breakfast Wednesday morning and not earn themselves a 10-minute benching.
So it might be competitive. Still, the Panthers scored a combined 102 points in two games against the Cavaliers. It probably won’t be much fun to watch.