Jim Boeheim says success is measured by NCAA tournament, shoots Big Ten

For Jim Boeheim, the only true barometer of a conference’s success is its record in the NCAA Tournament.

Based on those criteria, the longtime Syracuse coach said the Big Ten, which finished 9-9 in the NCAA tournament last year, fell short of the ACC, which finished 14-5. and sent three teams into the Elite Eight.

“At the end of the day, you play for the [NCAA] tournament,” Boeheim said Friday during his team’s media day. “You can say what you want about the Big Ten. They aspired to the tournament. For 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 no good.”

Last season, the Big Ten earned nine NCAA Tournament bids during Sunday draft, but only Michigan and Purdue made it to the second weekend. Both teams were eliminated in the Sweet 16, extending a league drought that hasn’t won the national championship since 2000.

Last year, the ACC had just five offers — its lowest total since sending four teams to the NCAA Tournament in 2013 — but North Carolina and Duke faced off in the Final Four last year. Mike Krzyzewski and Miami’s match made for a surprise run for the Elite Eight.

Although Syracuse missed the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 2017, Boeheim said the ACC’s playoff success has proven 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 will take this every year. We were very good in the tournament.”

Boeheim, who led Syracuse to the national title 20 years ago, is entering his 47th season amid continued speculation that he could soon retire. Over the summer, he told ESPN he was “close” to retirement. His 2022-23 team returns several 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 their NCAA tournament standings, not through the regular season.

“Kansas was the best team [last year]”, Boeheim said. “But the best league? Which league has won 14 games and lost just five [in the NCAA tournament]? ACC. For me, it’s the best league.”

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