Inside the Bracket: Orange aided by SOS

When it comes to cautionary tales of a team not playing a strong non-conference schedule, Syracuse has been Exhibit A for the last few years. In missing the NCAA Tournament in 2007, the Orange played a sub-par non-conference schedule. A year earlier, only a miraculous run through the Big East Tournament by the Gerry McNamara-led Orange overcame another weak schedule -- and a 7-9 conference record -- to earn an automatic bid to the bracket.

Thanks to the shortcomings of Syracuse and last year's Arizona State team, we know that a weak schedule can keep you out of the NCAA Tournament. But how much does a strong schedule help you in getting into the field?

Looking back at the past three years, teams finishing in the SOS Top 20 qualified 39 of a possible 60 teams for the NCAA Tournament. Moreover, the 11 teams from last year's SOS Top 20 that made the field had an average seed of 3.2, meaning they were also positioned well for a long run. Sure enough, five of those teams made the Sweet 16 and two of them, UCLA and North Carolina, made the Final Four.