first_img Published on January 14, 2016 at 4:48 pm Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentscenter_img It was a half hour after Syracuse fell to North Carolina on Saturday and Trevor Cooney had to get something off his chest. His team had just dropped to 0-4 in conference play for the first time since 1997. It fell apart late and, again, proved it isn’t good enough to compete for 40 minutes against adequate opponents.But Cooney wanted to tell everyone that his team’s NCAA Tournament hopes are alive and well.“In the conference that we’re in, we could go on and we could win a couple games and they’re a lot of ranked opponents,” Cooney said. “You go and beat some teams, you can still get in. It’s not like we’re in a crappy conference where you just have an easy road left and if you win all these games you didn’t really beat anyone.”Cooney’s unsolicited elusion to “tournament talk” illustrated the position Syracuse has put itself in. Sure, the Orange will continue taking it game by game; Wake Forest, then Duke, then Virginia and so on. But an 0-4 start to conference play forced SU to keep at least one eye on the bigger picture for the rest of the season.The Orange (11-7, 1-4 Atlantic Coast) finally got in the ACC win column by beating Boston College on Wednesday. And while it’s certainly a start, albeit a late one, that result itself won’t do much for Syracuse in the long term. But the opportunities to start erasing the four straight losses — and defeats to Wisconsin, Georgetown and St. John’s in non-conference play — are all over SU’s upcoming schedule.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWith that comes the possibility Syracuse will continue struggling against any respectable opponents and squash its Tournament chances before Valentine’s Day, which is when it plays Boston College a second time.The ACC has a nation-high six ranked teams in the current Associated Press Top 25 poll and, along with the Big 12, is the class of college basketball this year. Its 15 squads are beating up on each other on a nightly basis but building a strong national profile in the process.If the Orange was going to have a far-less-than-optimal start to conference play, it seems to have done it in the right place at the right time.“We’re in the type of league where any team could be beaten on any given night by any given team,” said SU point guard Michael Gbinije after the win over the Eagles. “We know that, and that could be positive for us or negative for us.”“… We dug a huge hole for ourselves the first four games and this win itself is not going to help us to where we need to be. So we just need to continue to try and add some games to the win column and try and sneak some as well.”If anything’s a “sure thing” in the ACC season, it’s that home-court advantage has factored heavily into results. Home teams are 20-9 heading into Thursday’s games and six of those home losses – two for each team – are by Syracuse, North Carolina State and Boston College, the bottom three teams in the league. That leaves three home losses for the other 12 teams.This week alone, Clemson knocked off No. 9 Duke on Wednesday and No. 13 Virginia — which had previously lost to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech on the road — gave No. 8 Miami its first ACC loss on Tuesday. Clemson, who beat Syracuse in overtime on Jan. 5, also has a win against then-No. 16 Louisville.Now the Orange, with a trip south to face Wake Forest, Duke and Virginia, has a chance to get in on the fun or miss out on it altogether.“In the ACC, every team we play is probably really highly ranked so there’s a lot of chances to get good wins,” SU forward Tyler Roberson said. “It just takes one or two wins and you start rolling in this conference, they’re just not easy to get. Ever.”On Monday, Jim Boeheim was asked to connect this ACC to the 2011 Big East. Eleven Big East teams received NCAA Tournament bids that season. Boeheim said it took perfect scheduling to make that happen, but relented that it’s “theoretically possible” for the current ACC to pull off a similar feat.Whether Syracuse is one of them will be up to how well it can clean up its deficiencies in the near future. Boeheim said Wednesday that his team isn’t playing well enough right now to reach its goals. With the way it shot and took care of the ball against BC, he has a very valid argument.But an omission from the Tournament in two months wouldn’t be because of a lack of opportunity for the Orange. In the ACC, you always have a chance.“We know that we have a tough road ahead of us, but we kind of look at it as great opportunities,” Cooney said. “We’ve had a tough schedule and beat some tough teams, and we just have to hang tough.”Jesse Dougherty is a Senior Staff Writer at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at or @dougherty_jesse.last_img read more