FanPost

The 10 Most Delusional Fan Bases In College Sports - #6 Syracuse Basketball

Nate Shron

Daniel D. Zillmer, a writer at Collegespun.com, has put together said list, and ranks SU Hoops fan #6, saying:

6. Syracuse Basketball Fans:

Syracuse has been a very successful program during the Jim Boeheim era. The Orange(men) even won the national championship in 2003 — thanks to the sensational freshman Carmelo Anthony. But many fans of the Orange believe that the school is one of the 5-10 best college basketball programs in the country, and it’s simply not true. SU, under Boeheim, has only reached the Final Four in four of his 38 seasons. In contrast, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, the only head coach with more wins, has won four national championships and reached the Final Four 11 times in 33 years leading the Blue Devils.

Syracuse is consistently one of the most talked-about teams every year – they’ve even been ranked No. 1 during the season numerous times in the past decade. But when it comes to postseason success, the Orange falter more than some of the other "elite" schools – for whatever reason. Syracuse fans are notorious for citing excuses – like Fab Melo’s suspension or Arinze Onuaku’s knee injury – as reasons why they can’t get it done in March.

I wanted to take an analytical approach to a rebuttal of this claim that Syracuse is not ten, so I started doing a little digging.

Admittedly, Mr. Zellmer's take is brief, but his premise seems to be that Syracuse hoops aren't as "good" as we SU fans like to believe, and we also make excuses when things don't work out. I'm not going to research the second of those assertions - we make excuses, we whine, yadda, yadda, yadda. So does every fan base out there when things don't go our way. Our coach just happens to be kind of infamous for it too, so it sticks. So be it.

I'll concede point 2, but a fan base whining when key players are removed from the lineup in the post-season hardly seems enough to deserve a top 10 ranking for delusions. In order to see just how delusional our whining is, lets take a look at claim #1 - fans of the Orange believe that the school is one of the 5-10 best college basketball programs in the country, and it’s simply not true. SU, under Boeheim, has only reached the Final Four in four of his 38 seasons. In contrast, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, the only head coach with more wins, has won four national championships and reached the Final Four 11 times in 33 years leading the Blue Devils.

First, let's look at that statement. A cursory examination would lead one to logically conclude that if a school is unable to match the post-season prowess of the winning-est coach in D1 history that school cannot be elite. Surely Mr. Zellmer doesn't feel that is true?

Second, for this data set Mr. Zellmer goes all the way back to the beginning of coach Boeheim's tenure, 'lo those 38 years ago. I was 6 years old then, and I am an 'old-timer' when it comes to SU's online, whiny fan-base. I didn't start thinking Syracuse was really, really good until 1987, and I doubt many others would say so either, but regardless, to start my analysis I indeed went back to 1976. I made a handy spreadsheet to track all the Final Four teams (the metric that Mr. Zellmer mentions to measure eliteness) since then.

school final fours since '76 RANKING
NORTH CAROLINA 12 1t
DUKE 12 1t
KENTUCKY 9 3
KANSAS 8 4
MICHIGAN ST 7 5t
LOUISVILLE 7 5t
UCLA 6 7
INDIANA 5 8t
MICHIGAN 5 8t
CONNECTICUT 5 8t
UNLV 4 11t
ARKANSAS 4 11t
GEORGETOWN 4 11t
ARIZONA 4 11t
SYRACUSE 4 11t
FLORIDA 4 11t
LSU 3 17t
HOUSTON 3 17t
OHIO STATE 3 17t
MARQUETTE 2 20t
ILLINOIS 2 20t
GEORGIA TECH 2 20t
VIRGINIA 2 20t
VILLANOVA 2 20t
OKLAHOMA 2 20t
OKLAHOMA ST 2 20t
WISCONSIN 2 20t
MARYLAND 2 20t
BUTLER 2 20t

Since 1976 29 teams have made it to the NCAA Final Four at least twice. Syracuse is tied with 5 other teams for 11th place by this metric, so if one defines elite teams by the number of Final Four appearances since 1976, SU is, indeed, not in the top 5-10.

But I don't know of anyone other than Mr. Zellmer who uses this particularly specific metric to define what is elite.

When I expanded my chart above to include a bit more information, I found that I would probably eliminate a number of the top 16 or so (which is everyone with at least 4 Final Fours in the last 38 years) as no longer meeting anyone's definition of elite. See if you can guess which (hint, I formatted them with strikethrough text...)

school final fours since '76 RANKING years since last FF 2003- titles 2003- (last title if 0)
NORTH CAROLINA 12 1t 5 3 2
DUKE 12 1t 4 2 1
KENTUCKY 9 3 0 3 1
KANSAS 8 4 2 3 1
MICHIGAN ST 7 5t 4 3 0 (2000)
LOUISVILLE 7 5t 1 3 1
UCLA 6 7 6 3 0 (1995)
INDIANA 5 8t 12 0 0 (1987)
MICHIGAN 5 8t 1 1 0 (1989)
CONNECTICUT 5 8t 0 4 3
UNLV 4 11t 23 0 0 (1990)
ARKANSAS 4 11t 19 0 0 (1994)
GEORGETOWN 4 11t 7 1 0 (1984)
ARIZONA 4 11t 13 0 0 (1997)
SYRACUSE 4 11t 1 2 1
FLORIDA 4 11t 0 3 2

Yes, I cut Indiana. No, not because of 1987 (well, at least not for what happened between SU and IND in 1987) - that was the last time IU won a title (24 years ago) and they've failed to reach the Final Four in 12 years. Not elite. Not anymore. Another B1G school that I am axing is Michigan. They have history, the Fab 5 (23 years ago) and made the Final Four just last year, but no titles since 1989 and only 1 Final Four since 2003 - that's not elite either.

So then there were 10. And SU is solidly right there with the other 9. At this stage I feel I've made my point, but I would also like to look at NCAA tourney winning percentage for our now top 10, since 2003:

school NT record 2003- NT win % 2003-
CONNECTICUT 28-6 82.4%
FLORIDA 31-8 79.5%
NORTH CAROLINA 29-8 78.4%
KENTUCKY 27-9 75.0%
KANSAS 31-11 73.8%
LOUISVILLE 24-10 70.6%
SYRACUSE 21-9 70.0%
UCLA 18-8 69.2%
DUKE 24-11 68.6%
MICHIGAN ST 26-12 68.4%

No surprise, but it seems that UCONN is the crème de la crème in this era (defined as the last 12 seasons arbitrarily). Incidentally, that Duke school Mr. Zellmer wanted to use as a measuring stick - seems like SU stacks up just fine over this span:

school years since last FF 2003-2014 titles 2003-2014 NT record 2003-2014 NT win % 2003-2014
SYRACUSE 1 2 1 21-9 70.0%
DUKE 4 2 1 24-11 68.6%

Oh, and if Coach K can be the standard of measure with last year's loss to Mercer in their first game, we can be forgiven Vermont in '05.

In closing, while I concede that Syracuse is not a slam dunk elite team like some of the blue bloods on this list, this presents a very strong case that they are top 10 worthy, and that's without (almost) mentioning that the author himself admits that the program has "even been ranked No. 1 during the season numerous times in the past decade," a distinction I'd think would also deter this mindset.

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