NEW YORK – Once again, Jim Boeheim’s stay at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament was brief and inglorious.
But that doesn’t mean it was uneventful.
After watching his Syracuse team flame out in its first ACC tourney game yet again – he’s never won in this event, now 0-3 plus a postseason ban – the caustic crab tried to avoid the subject of whether his bubblicious Orange should be in the NCAA tournament. Then he strayed off-script and into an extended lobbying effort for their inclusion. And then a few minutes later he trashed the league’s home base of Greensboro, N.C.
“I’m saying all this,” Boeheim explained, “because I don’t give a [expletive].”
When that charm offensive was concluded, Boeheim was free to return to the home gulag in western New York for an anxious 100 hours. He can staunchly defend his team’s Big Dance merits, but the window of impressing the selection committee is now closed. And despite Boeheim’s defense of Syracuse’s 18-14 record, there are gaping holes in it.
This is the Q&A between Boeheim and ESPN’s Dana O’Neil, who followed up both tenaciously and professionally until she got an answer:
Q. Jim, I guess the simple question is what do you think your NCAA fate will be on Sunday? Boeheim: It doesn’t matter what I think.
Q. What would you expect to see happen? Boeheim: I expect the committee to make a decision.
Q. Do you have an opinion on what that decision should be? Boeheim: Obviously, I’ve answered that twice already. Want me to answer it again?
Q. Sure. Boeheim: I don’t have an opinion. It’s up to them. My opinion doesn’t matter. Every coach in the country that’s on the bubble thinks his team should get in. Every coach. The facts in the case – I’m not going to say whether we should get in or not. That’s up to the committee.
The facts in the case, last year (when Syracuse snuck in the field and wound up in the Final Four) we had three good wins against a top team in the country, Texas A&M, Connecticut who was not ranked, and Duke was at about 18. This year we have three good wins, three teams in the top 10 when we beat them.
I see all the time on the bracketology thing, it says Syracuse has (indiscernible) top-50 wins, and so does this team. That team doesn’t have any wins against the top 20.
The committee has always looked at good wins. Everyone says they’re home. The tournament is not played at home and not played on the road. It’s played at neutral sites. …
Boeheim went on from there for a while, but that’s a good place for a reality check. The tournament is indeed played at neutral sites, and guess what Syracuse’s record is in those games? Try 0-3, with losses to South Carolina by 14, a Connecticut team that is nowhere close to making the Big Dance, and Wednesday afternoon against lower-seeded Miami.
Oh, one other thing: all three of those “neutral” game losses were played in New York. And if you’ve seen any Syracuse marketing in recent years, this is the program that bills itself as “New York’s team.” This wasn’t an overwhelming atmosphere, but the crowd was decidedly pro-Syracuse.
So, you want to see that team on a neutral floor? Ahead of teams that went somewhere and challenged themselves on the road in November and December, while ‘Cuse was in its cocoon?
All of Syracuse’s quality wins have come in the Carrier Dome. They’re 2-11 elsewhere, with victories over North Carolina State in overtime and on a Tyus Battle buzzer-beater against Clemson. Combined league records of N.C. State and Clemson: 10-26.
If Syracuse makes the NCAA tournament, it’s a victory for name-brand bias, establishment conferences and timid scheduling designed to protect the power teams. It’s a defeat for mid-major teams with none of the built-in advantages and all of the risk on both conference play and conference tournaments.
Speaking of conference tournaments, and their locations: Boeheim made more friends by nuking the traditional site of the ACC tourney, Greensboro.
Asked about playing here in New York, Boeheim championed the decision. And didn’t stop there.
“I think New York’s a great place. Obviously, we get some fans here. It doesn’t matter in terms of who wins. I just think New York City is a great venue for our tournament. I think the big city is where it should be played. I think it should be played here, Washington, Atlanta. That’s where the tournament should be played. …
“I think there’s a huge value in playing the tournament in those places. There’s no value in playing Greensboro, none. It’s there because the league’s been there and the office is there, and they have 150 people that the ACC needs. That’s why it’s there. It should not be there.
“You get in the media centers and the recruiting centers, how many players do they have in Greensboro? And I’m saying all that because I don’t give a [expletive]. I’m just saying what’s right.”