The recent announcement that Syracuse has self-banned its basketball team from post-season play—the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the NCAA tournament, the National Invitation Tournament—is interesting on many fronts, not the least of which is the self-imposed admission there has been wrong-doing in the program and that the Orange wants to get ahead of whatever punishment the NCAA might hand down 20 years from now when the investigation concludes.
Not participating in the ACC event is wise since the winner of the ACC basketball tournament is the official champion of the league and receives the automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament. There is no regular season champion or trophy to go along with it. The regular season, the 16 conference games the league schedules, is played for ACC tournament-seeding purposes only (and bragging rights). That’s how it was set up years ago; that’s how it remains today. Obviously, if Syracuse played in the ACC Tournament and won, the self-imposed ban on post-season participation would apply. But…
In 1973, NC State was on NCAA probation but opted to play in the ACC Tournament, as did Duke, also on NCAA probation that season. The Wolfpack (12-0 in the regular season) won the tournament, defeating Maryland, 76-74, in the title game, and, interestingly enough, the Terrapins were designated as the ACC representative in the NCAA Tournament. That was when only one team per conference could go to the NCAA event. It’s interestingly enough because Maryland (7-5) was third in the regular season, behind second-seed North Carolina (8-4). So, what if in 1973 last place Wake Forest (3-9), which beat the Tar Heels in the opening round of the ACC tournament, 54-52, had defeated Maryland in the semifinals instead of losing, 73-65, and had played and lost to State in the championship game? Would the Demon Deacons have advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the same reason the third-seeded team did: runner-up?
With Syracuse dropping from play in the ACC tournament, even with multiple picks from conference, that weird scenario cannot happen. Imagine if Syracuse participated and advanced to the finals along with a team with a 3-13 conference record team. If the bottom-of-the-league team were to defeat Syracuse, that team would go as the ACC Champion. But, the question is this: If in that scenario Syracuse won the tournament, defeating a last place 3-13 team, would the tournament runner-up get the automatic bid to the NCAA, just as Maryland did in 1973?
Dictionary.com word of the day
tenebrific (adjective) [ten-uh-brif-ik]: producing darkness