Syracuse University’s men’s basketball team will not see any post-season match ups. But, it’s not a sanction coming down from the NCAA. The university itself has decided to pull the team from any ACC, NCAA, or NIT appearances this year in light of an ongoing NCAA investigation regarding possible athletic department violations that Syracuse reported in 2007. School officials explained that the ban is an effort to continue to atone for past mistakes. Those past mistakes include alleged academic violations and violations of the team’s internal drug policy. However, no current athletes are involved, and the university states that none of the behavior in question occurred after 2012.
So what does this mean? For The Orange, it means that the current players have to suffer consequences of mistakes that they didn’t make. This is particularly sad for seniors, like forward Rakeem Christmas, who have lost a last shot at an NCAA appearance. Christmas was looking to use the post-season to improve his chances of a future NBA career. Even without an NCAA invitation, the ACC tournament showcases some of the best basketball in the country. Christmas could have benefited from stand-out performances in those games.
Syracuse is about middle-of-the-pack in the ACC. And though they wouldn’t have exactly been favored to win the ACC Tournament, with such a concentration of basketball talent in one conference, you can’t really count anyone out.
Except, now you can. Instead of 15 teams in the tournament, there will be 14. At the end of the season, conference standings will all shift up as Syracuse is removed. Seeding will be determined without Syracuse, but if there are any ties that need to be broken in order to determine a seed, Syracuse’s record will be involved. The tournament schedule and bracket have changed as well. Round One will now consist of two games, between seeds 11 and 14, and 12 and 13. Seeds 5-10 will now all receive a first-round bye; seeds 1-4 will receive a double-bye.
Of course, The Orange will finish out the regular season. They travel to Pitt on Saturday, February 7th. The games matter, though on one hand, some tinge of excitement, of higher stakes, is lost when a team is not working toward the post-season. On another, these last nine games now carry extra significance. As Syracuse tries to rebuild itself and look toward next year, the team and Coach Jim Boeheim will hope to finish strong despite a tough remaining schedule. And for the seniors, it’ll be their last games in orange for The Orange, and they’ll want to leave the university and the fans with a positive image of Syracuse Basketball.