Syracuse wins a lot. I mean, A LOT.
We knew that already, I know. What with all the 20-win seasons piling up like lake effect snow -- to the point 20 wins are just apart of the winter routine like getting out the shovel; they've happened 35 times for crying out loud. But doesn't it always feel like Syracuse is the perpetual underdog? The favorite that's somehow everyone's whipping boy. Just this season, for example, the Orange come in at No. 2 in the nation but have had to fight for that spot with Ohio State -- despite Syracuse's beating teams like Baylor and Villanova handily.
For every compliment doled out to Boeheim it's usually prefaced or postscript with some snarky impersonation of the Hall of Fame coach. Like Boeheim, and Syracuse basketball by extension, is the outcast little brother always fighting for respect, or the really older professor you don't appreciate until after graduation.
Even within the fan base, I'd bet followers recall the losses or rough seasons quicker than most of the wins can come to mind. Those recent NIT years still haunting everyone's basketball soul despite the fact they were five and six years ago respectively.
Which is why you shouldn't be surprised by the following two stats, but you probably will be. According to the math done by Syracuse Post Standard's Chris Carlson, Syracuse is 64-1 in nonconference games over the last five seasons.
Make that #Syracuse unbeaten in three of the last four years (this would be fourth of five). Orange are 63-1 in that span.
— chris carlson (@ccarlsononSU) December 31, 2013
That tweet tweeted prior to Syracuse's victory over Eastern Michigan. Which means that not only has SU won 64 of its last 65 non-league games, its also gone undefeated in November and December four out of the last five years. The lone loss?
(Hide your eyes, and your wife I suppose.)
As fluky as fluke gets! Yes, Syracuse let a decent Cleveland State hang around too long, and, remember, this was a pretty tired SU Orange team that had already beaten top-25 Florida and Kansas. But a loss it was for sure. However, since December 15, 2008 Syracuse hasn't been Cleveland-Stated once.
(UPDATE: Thanks to Mark for pointing out that while SU didn't get Cleveland-Stated, it did get Templed just in December of 2012! So that skews the numbers a little, but it still essentially means the Orange has two losses in non-league play.)
And with those non-league wins accumulating, 51 straight at home by the way, the SU fan still has to fend themselves off from the nitpickers, picking nits that Syracuse doesn't play "anyone." Even though the Orange haven't been North-Carolinaed, or Memphised, or Michigan-Stated, or Baylored, or Villanovaed, or...you get the picture...in the last five years either. The Orange have played some of the Big Boys in college hoops and beaten them, too.
In fact, going back even farther than just '08, and factoring some rather forgettable years like '01 or '02, have your realized just how good SU has been since the turn of the century?
Whoa. Syracuse is fourth in highest winning percentage since the '99-00 season, .759% -- behind Duke, Kansas and Gonzaga. (Per ESPNU.)
— Matthew McClusky (@MatthewMcClusky) December 29, 2013
(Yes, I linked my own tweet, big whoop, wanna' fight about it?)
That's victories in November and in February; victories against top-flight Big East teams as well as forgettable tomato cans. Ws and a whole lot of them.
Now, this isn't meant to be a giant kiss to Otto's rump, mind you. You could easily argue all of that winning has led to only two Final Four appearances and one title. Duke has gone to three Final Fours, winning one championship, since '00. And Michigan State, also with a title in that span, has been to 6 Final Fours since 2000. So if SU is essentially winning 3 out of every 4 times out on the court, a question could be asked: why isn't the program advancing further into the tourney on a more regular basis?
Personally I don't really buy that, seeing as how difficult it is to win a championship in college basketball, but I guess it's a fair debate to raise. One meant for someone else to explore the answer because, honestly, I simply can't get over how often Syracuse just wins basketball games. I'm not in some state of shock, once again, we're used to this around here. But when you put those numbers into context, the 64 out of 65 in non-conference action, the 76% win percentage, the home and neutral wins, seeing them on the computer screen is just...amazing. Really amazing.
It's a part of a strange pattern, amazing in its own right, this life cycle of Syracuse Basketball. Consistency, sustained success, and the fact none of it ever seems to matter the way it should.