Syracuse (23-7, 11-6 Big East) used a balanced attack paced by James Southerland’s 22 points and career-high 10 rebounds to outlast DePaul (11-19, 2-15), which lost its fifth game in a row.
The Orange are leaving the Big East next season to join the ACC.
With only the No. 5 Georgetown Hoyas left to play in the regular-season finale at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., Syracuse can start to speculate where it will be seeded when the NCAA releases it bracket pairings on Selection Sunday, March 17.
Georgetown (23-5, 13-4) will play a major part in Syracuse’s seeding. The Hoyas are coming off a tough road loss to Villanova and will be looking for a bounce back against the Orange.
Georgetown has already notched a win at Syracuse on February 23, which sent the Orange into a three-game tailspin. Syracuse righted its ship against DePaul, but with the Blue Demons only winning two conference games this season, the win only stopped the bleeding.
A win on the road against Georgetown would let the healing begin.
Syracuse will likely be a No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the Big East Tournament next week, giving the Orange one bye and the potential to play four games in four days, should they continue to win.
The duration of the Orange's journey in the Big East tournament will be the ultimate deciding factor in where Syracuse is seeded in the NCAA tournament.
The inventor of Bracketology, ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi, has made a name for himself predicting which teams will make the NCAA tournament and where each one will be seeded. He predicted the complete field in 2008 and has only been one or two teams away from perfection in the years that followed.
Lunardi currently has Syracuse penciled in as a No. 4 seed, which would coincide with the Orange’s No. 16 ranking in the RPI. The NCAA uses the RPI one of its main deciders in tournament placement.
Other factors the NCAA uses include quality wins, bad losses and road victories.
Syracuse’s quality wins are against San Diego State, Louisville, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. The Orange have no bad losses, as each team they lost to seems to be lined up for an NCAA Tournament berth with the exception of Connecticut, which is ineligible for postseason play.
As an added bonus, Syracuse is the only team to win in Arkansas this season, a venue that saw then-No. 2 Florida fall.
Which team will win on Saturday?
With a handful of quality wins and no bad losses, the only way the Orange could drop below a No. 4 seed would be losing to Georgetown and then losing their first game in the Big East tournament. Losing those two games would likely drop Syracuse to a No. 5 seed or at worst a No. 6 seed.
A win against Georgetown would put Syracuse on the road to a No. 3 seed. A win against Georgetown, coupled with a win in the Big East tournament, would probably cement a No. 3 seed.
After that, Syracuse would need to impress to go any further. An appearance in the finals of the Big East Tournament would bring the potential for a No. 2 seed, and a Big East tournament championship would lock the Orange into that seed.
This is all speculation, of course.
The win against DePaul ended a three-game losing streak for the Orange in which they struggled to score, rebound and keep their opponents away from the free-throw line. Expecting a Big East tournament championship is a long shot, at best.
We’ll know more after Saturday’s game against Georgetown, but it seems that the most likely scenario would keep Syracuse right where it is according to RPI and national polls, which would be a No. 4 seed.