RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Syracuse entered January looking headed to a season of disappointment and possibly missing the NCAA Tournament a year after an unexpected Final Four run.
A bit of homecourt success has changed the Orange's course.
Syracuse (16-9, 8-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) has regrouped from an 8-6 start on the strength of a 6-0 record at the Carrier Dome in league play, including upsets of No. 12 Virginia and No. 14 Florida State when both were in the top 10. And they've rallied from second-half deficits — 16 at North Carolina State, nine at Clemson — in their two league road wins.
"This groups plays, they keep playing, try to play the next play, try to make a good play," coach Jim Boeheim said after Tuesday's 82-81 win at Clemson on a last-second 3-pointer by freshman Tyus Battle. "They've been doing that. They've been making good plays the last few games."
The Orange's NCAA resume still could use some work. They sit at No. 62 in the RPI and lost their top nonconference games to Wisconsin and South Carolina in November. They also lost to three teams outside the top 100 of the RPI — Connecticut, St. John's (at home by 33 points) and Boston College — during that 8-6 start.
They also lack a major road win, and their only road game left against a ranked team comes at No. 4 Louisville on Feb. 26.
Then again, continuing their home success and second-half surge could cover for those weaknesses. Both Louisville and No. 18 Duke visit the Carrier Dome this month, while Syracuse closes with a home game against a Georgia Tech bubble team.
ON THE RISE
Kansas State: The Wildcats (16-8, 5-6 Big 12) had a huge win last weekend with their road victory over then-No. 2 Baylor. They already have a win against No. 13 West Virginia and visit the Mountaineers on Saturday.
SMU: The No. 25 Mustangs (21-4, 11-1 American Athletic Conference) are rolling clear of bubble status. SMU has won 17 of 18 after a slow start — most by big margins — with the only loss coming to Cincinnati. Round 2 against the No. 11 Bearcats comes Sunday.
VCU: Much like SMU, the Rams (19-5, 9-2 Atlantic 10) are looking solid. They have won 13 of 15 since early December, the last two being wild wins against St. Bonaventure and George Washington. They stand at No. 26 in the RPI and No. 48 on KenPom.com.
Wichita State: The Shockers (22-4, 12-1 Missouri Valley Conference) have won 13 of 14, and they avenged their only loss in that stretch with a 41-point rout of Illinois State last weekend. They missed on early chances for resume-bolstering wins against Louisville, Michigan State and Oklahoma State, so the Shockers can't afford to stumble in KenPom.com's 10th-ranked league.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks (17-7, 6-5 Southeastern Conference) have had a rough two weeks. After a 28-point loss at Oklahoma State, they fell to a six-win Missouri team that stands at No. 255 in the RPI and to a .500 Vanderbilt team. And only two of Arkansas' last seven opponents sit in the top 50 of the KenPom.com rankings to help its case.
Clemson: The Tigers (13-10, 3-8 ACC) are well on their way to missing the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive year. They have a nonconference win against a ranked South Carolina team, but their ACC wins have all come against teams with losing league marks. Their only real chances to help themselves come Saturday at No. 18 Duke and Feb. 25 at home against a Florida State team that beat the Tigers 109-61 last weekend.
Indiana: The Hoosiers (15-10, 5-7 Big Ten) reached No. 3 in the Top 25 in November, but now sit at No. 81 in the RPI after losing four of five with Thursday's home loss to No. 16 Purdue. Those early wins against Kansas and North Carolina look great, but this injury-hit team is falling behind in league play.
Seton Hall. Sitting at No. 37 in the RPI, the Pirates (15-8, 5-6 Big East) have lost five of eight in a stretch that included missed resume-bolstering opportunities against No. 2 Villanova, No. 22 Butler and No. 24 Xavier. The good news is they play those teams again along with No. 23 Creighton.
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