Boeheim suspension puts Syracuse in unusual bubble situation

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WASHINGTON >> Jim Boeheim had no comment about Syracuse's unusual NCAA Tournament uncertainty. Then he had plenty of comments.

Boeheim couldn't tell the selection committee what to think after Syracuse lost to Pittsburgh in its ACC Tournament opener to fall to 19-13. He was suspended for nine games, including three in conference play, so no one's sure how that stretch will be judged.

"I'm not on the committee," Boeheim said Wednesday. "Every coach in the country that's got any kind of record thinks they should get in the tournament. What do you want me to say? They're going to have to evaluate what we've done based on all the circumstances and make a decision."

Syracuse went 4-2 out of conference and 0-3 in the ACC without Boeheim, when Mike Hopkins was in charge. The Orange went 15-8 with Boeheim on the bench, including victories against Duke and Notre Dame.

Boeheim, who has led Syracuse to the NCAA Tournament 31 times, boasted that his team had beaten four teams in the top 35 in the country and eight in the top 100. He said, "if there's teams better than that, so be it."

Better is subjective, but the ACC has five NCAA tournament locks in North Carolina, Virginia, Miami, Duke and Notre Dame and another solid bet in Pitt. Syracuse didn't help itself by falling behind by 14 against the Panthers and falling short of what would've been its 20th win.

"It's a tough spot, a really tough spot," graduate student guard Trevor Cooney said. "We have some good wins and some quality wins and we're a good team and we've proved that throughout this year, so we'll see moving forward."

Syracuse isn't the only team on the bubble in the coming days, but Boeheim's suspension makes its case among the most unusual. Boeheim used his time at the microphone Wednesday pleading his case for why his players should not be punished more for past transgressions of the program.

"I think we've had our punishment," Boeheim said. "The players on this team didn't do anything wrong, were not involved in anything. They should be evaluated on how well they played when they played their best. That's the only thing that I think should happen. We should be evaluated on what kind of team we are."

Selection committee chairman Joe Castiglione has said Boeheim's absence should make a difference. Boeheim has no idea how that'll play out in the final deliberations.

"I think everybody has their own opinions," Boeheim said. "How much is that important? I don't know. How much is that taken into consideration? I don't know."

His players understand they could've eased the situation by beating Pitt. A one-point loss, the Orange's third to the Panthers this season, set them up for a few sleepless nights.

"I think our seniors deserve it and hopefully we'll be going," freshman guard Frank Howard said. "Just have to wish for the best at this point."


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