"The king stay the king, a'ight."
D'Angelo Barksdale, the now-dead fictional human, was right when he dropped that knowledge on Wallace, another now-dead fictional human: Those in power tend to hold power, even through a power struggle. Yet, he was also wrong: The collapse of the Barksdale Organization, a now-defunct fictional drug distribution operation, provided a stark contrast to D'Angelo's statement of certainty. Sometimes what's expected and what transpires are in conflict, creating a friction that makes blood leak out of your ears as your brain decides to take a break for, I don't know, forever.
This is kind of what happened this past weekend when the men's basketball team broke science and beat Virginia and the women's basketball team somehow toppled South Carolina. Both the Cavaliers and Gamecocks were superior to the Orange -- Syracuse had about 4:1 odds in each game with predicted spreads placing the Orange anywhere between eight- and nine-point underdogs -- but it was the Orange that yanked victory from predetermined defeat while shattering faces and laughing like a bunch of idiots fueled only by the desire to ruin everything for everybody. Basically, it was the dumbest flavor of awesome fun, mostly because the eventual results were only definite if you have the type of personality that bends toward the clinically insane.
And here we are again: Both Syracuse basketball teams are staring at ugly probabilities at the apex of their seasons. This, though, doesn't feel like a death sentence as much as it does an opportunity for the Orange to unleash their nightmare basketball tournament death machines on yet another class of unsuspecting future homicide victims. So, digest what follows as you see fit, understanding that the Orange are likely to lose their heads but have established a desire to live forever as the most improbable of survivalists.
Here is a basketball computer table thing:
Click the image to embiggen.
Here's the disappointing part of Coach Q's push to Indianapolis: Connecticut is waiting at the end, and the Huskies have bludgeoned everything in their path all damn season. Any triumph over Connecticut would tear a hole in the spacetime continuum and plunge us all into the unknown. This is just about a certainty, and the Huskies' almost 90% win probability reflects that fact. Connecticut is as close to a super team as exists in the NCAA at this point, and given the program's track record of collecting gold medal inventory, 2016 likely stands as another incredible moment for one of the least necessary states in this here union.
But Coach Q can still do things! The Orange's date with Washington is highly interesting, if only because the outcome is far from predetermined. Washington-Syracuse is within the toss-up zone, with a composite of the models considered -- there aren't a lot of ratings models that forecast women's basketball, which is pretty pathetic -- installing the Orange at about a two-point favorite. There is hope here -- legitimate, not-looking-for-a-loophole-to-reality hope -- that Syracuse can continue its tremendous season and offer Coach Q the opportunity to dress like an aristocrat on national television once more. Oregon State-Connecticut will draw all the eyeballs due to the Huskies' thirst for blood, but Washington-Syracuse is the more balanced and competitively-squared of the two national semifinal games.
Which brings us back to the awful part of this story: Syracuse would probably need to burn down the building to beat Connecticut should the Orange shake Washington. Syracuse just isn't on the same level as that team yet, which is okay as Coach Q has only been in Syracuse for, like, a minute and hasn't yet developed the proper meme to get the Orange over the top. Someday this could happen (assuming Coach Q sticks around to see his experiment to full, diabolical fruition), but 2016 doesn't look like the time for it to occur.
Just look at that table: Three of the top eight or so teams in the country are headed to Houston, accompanied by a rocket ship made out of a partially restored 1964 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron with a bad rear axle. It's not that Syracuse is bad, it's that the Orange are oddly comparatively inferior. This is obviously highlighted by Syracuse's icky win probabilities against every remaining team in the field and the expected spreads, but just look at the construct of that table: This is both the glory and the inherent flaw of a single-elimination tournament that seeks to crown a national champion and not necessarily the best team in the country. That's great! That's America! That's high-grade democracy! Let's eat a bucket of french fries and point at stupid England and laugh!
Nothing here is particularly ebullient about Syracuse: If the Orange are somehow able to slip past North Carolina -- Syracuse fought favorably against the Tar Heels both in the Dome and in Chapel Hill this season -- the road remains precarious with skull-thumping Villanova or shoot-from-the-moon Oklahoma waiting for the Orange in the final. (The Sooners are the more preferable of the two potential national championship opponents, at least from a computing machine perspective. I'd bet, however, that most Syracuse fans would like a crack at the Wildcats, even if Villanova is quantitatively stronger than Oklahoma.) If Jim Boeheim pulls this off, Syracuse's run through the 2016 NCAA Tournament will go down as arguably the most improbable of all time.
Look: Syracuse essentially had a 0% chance of progressing to the national title game in a 538, Pomeroy, Power Rank, and Massey composite prediction at the start of the NCAA Tournament; the Orange also had a 0% chance winning the whole damn thing in the same composite. Now? Syracuse has about a 22% chance of playing on Monday night and a 6% chance of winning a second title. This is some weird, running-through-the-streets-naked kind of stuff and I want to hug it forever.