Jim Boeheim, one of the most decorated men’s basketball coaches in NCAA history, made clear Friday what the measuring stick for success is, and it’s not conference tournaments.
The Syracuse head coach, who missed the NCAA Tournament last season, attempted to lift up the ACC when it came to wins in the tournament instead of the number of bids a conference, like the Big Ten gets. The ACC got five bids in March, and the Big Ten got nine bids. However, North Carolina and Duke made it to the Final Four along with Villanova and Kansas. The Jayhawks beat the Tar Heels in the finals.
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“At the end of the day, you play for the [NCAA] tournament,” Boeheim said at Syracuse media day, via ESPN. “You can say what you want about the Big Ten. They sucked in the tournament. To me, that’s what they did. All of their wins were in their league. If you can’t play in the [NCAA] tournament, then you’re not good.”
The Big 12 may have won the tournament the last two years in a row, but it was the ACC who took home the hardware in 2019. A Big Ten school hasn’t won the tournament since 2000, when Tom Izzo and Mateen Cleaves made Michigan State the cream of the crop.
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“I’ll take the Sweet 16 if we finish [sixth in the ACC] overall. Would I like to do better in the regular season and [reach the Sweet 16]? Sure. But I’ll take that every year. We’ve been very good in the tournament,” Boeheim said.
“Kansas was the best team [last year],” Boeheim said. “But the best league? What league won 14 games and only lost five [in the NCAA tournament]? The ACC. To me, that’s the best league.”
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It’s up to Boeheim to get Syracuse back to the Big Dance. The Orange were 16-17 last season and 9-11 in the ACC. The team returns three seniors, including Joe Girard, who averaged 12.8 points and 4.2 assists last season.