For Jim Boeheim, the only true barometer of a conference’s success is its record in the NCAA tournament.
Based on that criteria, the longtime Syracuse coach said the Big Ten, which finished 9-9 in the NCAA tournament last year, was inferior to the ACC, which finished 14-5 and sent three teams to the Elite Eight.
“At the end of the day, you play for the [NCAA] tournament,” Boeheim said Friday at his team’s media day. “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.”
Last season, the Big Ten secured nine NCAA tournament bids on Selection Sunday but only Michigan and Purdue reached the second weekend. Both teams were eliminated in the Sweet 16, extending the drought of a league that hasn’t captured the national championship since 2000.
Last year, the ACC had just five bids — its lowest tally since it sent four teams to the NCAA tournament in 2013 — but North Carolina and Duke matched up in the Final Four in Mike Krzyzewski’s final game and Miami made a surprise run to the Elite Eight.
Although Syracuse missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 2017, Boeheim said the success of the ACC in the postseason proved its strength.
“I’ll take the Sweet 16 if we finish [sixth in the ACC] overall,” Boeheim said. “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, who led Syracuse to the national title 20 years ago, is entering his 47th season amid ongoing speculation that he might retire soon. Over the summer, he told ESPN he was “close” to retirement. His 2022-23 squad returns multiple veterans, including Joe Girard, who averaged 13.8 PPG and connected on 40.3% of his attempts from the 3-point line last season.
While Boeheim expects improvement from last year, the first losing season of his career, he said his team — and all teams — should be judged by its finish in the NCAA tournament, not the regular season.
“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.”