The Syracuse University men’s basketball team flew home Wednesday night from Louisville, Ky., feeling the disappointment of a lost opportunity despite not taking the court.
The Orange’s scheduled road game at Louisville was postponed by the Atlantic Coast Conference earlier that afternoon due to a positive COVID-19 test in the Cardinals program, potentially eliminating yet another chance for SU to bolster its postseason resume with the NCAA Tournament Selection Show nearly three weeks away.
Syracuse (12-6 overall, 6-5 ACC) is up to five games postponed without makeup dates, and according to coach Jim Boeheim, will likely be able to reschedule just one of those outings for the final week of the regular season. That eliminates a handful of matchups critical toward potentially boosting SU’s tourney chances.
Syracuse was rated No. 51 in the latest NCAA NET Rankings released Thursday, which was sixth among ACC teams. All but one of the five games in limbo were slated to be against teams higher in the NET — No. 16 Florida State (Jan. 6), No. 33 Louisville (Feb. 3 and Feb. 17), and No. 40 Clemson (Jan. 12).
Three of those games were slated to be played in the Carrier Dome, where SU is 10-1 this year. Among all five postponements, two were classified in Quad 1 under the NET formula and the remaining three were all in Quad 2. The Orange is still seeking its first Quad 1 victory and likely needs to improve its combined 2-5 record in Quad 1 and 2 games to secure an at-large bid.
“It’s unfortunate, we’ve lost three home games that could have all been really good wins,” Boeheim said during a phone interview Thursday. “There’s nothing you can do about it, you’ve just got to try to get ready for the next game and we’ve got some big games, really tough games coming up. That’s all you can do is try to do the best you can in the games you have left and go from there.”
Syracuse has four regular-season games left on its schedule — a stretch that will begin by hosting Notre Dame at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Carrier Dome for a league matchup to be televised on the ACC Network.
The Orange will then play a pair of road games with two chances for Quad 1 wins — at Duke next Monday and at Georgia Tech on Feb. 27. SU is slated to host North Carolina in another marquee matchup for NCAA at-large positioning March 1.
Boeheim said that he is hopeful to schedule a makeup conference game later that week after hosting the Tar Heels in what currently stands as the regular-season finale.
The ACC Tournament is slated to begin March 9 at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., and the NCAA Tournament Selection Show is slated for March 14.
The ACC entered Thursday with 29 men’s basketball games that have been postponed without makeup dates, including a pair that were scheduled for next week. The latest postponement for SU was the first time in which the team traveled to a visiting city before learning the game was called off.
“It’s tough, they wanted to play, they were ready to go, and then all of the sudden, you don’t play,” Boeheim said. “You just have to move to the next game, get back and have a couple of practices and get ready for Saturday, that’s all you can do. It’s been that kind of a season, there’s been interruptions pretty much for everybody.”
In the updated “Bracketology Report,” released by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi on Thursday, SU was listed among the “Next four out,” meaning its current trajectory would land the Orange between the fifth and eighth best teams to miss out on the NCAA at-large bids, according to Lunardi.
GRANT HITS CAREER HIGH IN BREAKOUT YEAR
Former SU forward Jerami Grant scored his NBA career high of 43 points on 15-for-25 shooting for the Detroit Pistons in a loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night. He became the first Pistons player since 2010 to score 40 or more points while shooting at least 60 percent from the field.
Grant is averaging career bests in points (23.8), rebounds (5.3), assists (2.9), 3-pointers (2.6) and minutes (36.3) per game in his ninth NBA season and first with Detroit. His scoring average is more than 10 points above his previous career best of 13.6 with Oklahoma City in 2018-19.
The Pistons are 8-20 in their first season under general manager, Troy Weaver, a former SU assistant coach from 2000-04 and a member of Boeheim’s staff during the 2003 national title campaign.
Grant played for SU from 2012-14 and finished sixth in minutes while contributing 3.9 points and 3 rebounds per game off the bench as a freshman for the 2012-13 Final Four team. He averaged 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds with a 49.6 field goal percentage while starting 20 of 32 games as a sophomore before departing for the NBA.
ORANGE IN ALL-STAR VOTING
Grant was ranked 10th among Eastern Conference frontcourt players in the most recent unveiling of NBA All-Star fan voting results. He received 282,605 votes in search of his first career appearance in the All-Star Game.
Fellow former SU star and Portland Trail Blazers forward, Carmelo Anthony, ranked 10th for the Western Conference frontcourt stars with 346,812 votes.
Anthony, who helped lead SU to its only national championship as a freshman sensation in 2003, is a 10-time NBA All-Star. He is averaging 13.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.7 made 3-pointers in 25.3 minutes per game in his 18th NBA season.
BATTLE WINS OVERSEAS DUNK CONTEST
Former SU guard Tyus Battle won the VTB United League slam dunk contest during all-star weekend for the Russian professional basketball organization earlier this week in Moscow.
Battle is averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and shooting 52 percent from behind the 3-point arc and has played in all 15 games for Enisey.
Battle finished his three-year SU career in 2019 with 1,647 points to rank 16th in program history.