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Syracuse basketball: Basketball computers still bearish on men, more bullish on women

It’s been about three weeks since we last checked in with basketball computers to see how they’re projecting Syracuse’s seasons. What’s changed, if anything?

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Ladies: A Fifth Consecutive Tournament Berth Looks Good

While Quentin Hillsman has led Syracuse to a 4-2 start in ACC play, a mark that places the Orange in a tie for fifth in the league with 10 dates remaining on the calendar, not much has changed in the Orange’s profile — at least according to basketball computing machines — from a win projection perspective: Expected to compile a 19-12 record prior to entering the conference slate, the ladies have maintained that projection while ever-so-slightly improving their overall rank relative to the rest of the nation.

This doesn’t have the feel of a team that is going to shatter faces in March, but it is positioned nicely to earn another NCAA Tournament invitation, a berth that would be only the ninth in the program’s history. With 10 of the ACC’s 15 teams currently slotted south of Syracuse, finishing with a 10-8 resume in the league would allow the Orange to face a manageable opponent in the second round of the ACC Tournament to breach the 20-win mark and set up a nice opportunity to bag a solid victory against a four- to six-seed (this opponent likely standing well within the top 40 of the country).

While a 19-win regular season isn’t the kind of projection that would make Reese’s Pieces fall from the sky in a delicious storm of happiness, the good news is that a Monte Carlo simulation — simulated 10,000 times — indicates that the likelihood of the Orange finishing outside of the 18- or 19-win range is unlikely:

There’s about an 83% chance that Hillsman can coax at least five more wins out of the lady ballers and a 63% chance that the final 10 games for the Orange feature five or six victories. There is only about an 8% chance that Syracuse closes its final stretch with fewer than four wins or more than seven. Even if the Orange simply hold the line, Syracuse is in good shape to have a March adventure.

The key to seeing this push come to fruition comes after Syracuse returns from Tallahassee: After facing Florida State, an opponent expected to crush the Orange by 18 points, Syracuse will host Miami in a toss-up game, travel to Virginia Tech in another toss-up matchup, and then revel in two body bag games (Pittsburgh and Boston College). A 3-1 or 4-0 effort in that run allows Syracuse to play with house money against Duke and Notre Dame, while also offering support to highly winnable dates against North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Pittsburgh in mid- to late-February.

The Men: Oh, God

When the buttons were pushed and the levers were pulled after Syracuse assaulted Cornell, the Orange were staring at a six-game stretch to start conference competition in which basketball computers assigned Syracuse a 3-3 projected record based on blended win probabilities. (The Orange were favored in all but two of those games, but with win probabilities serving as the baseline for projecting records, the expected outcome was a 3-3 effort.) Syracuse achieved that projection, but accomplished it with three borderline ridiculous games to open the stretch: Painting a turd in Chestnut Hill and racing both Miami and Pittsburgh out of the gym. Your teeth are never as white as you think they are and you’re never as poorly dressed as a teenager would lead you to believe.

The result of this maddening six-game foray into the ACC? The same 16-15 projection that the Orange faced three weeks ago, a dozen games standing between Syracuse and the worst win percentage in Jim Boeheim’s tenure.

But back to the teeth-wardrobe metaphor above: John had a nice little piece on Monday about what Syracuse’s ceiling might look like. The basic premise: Let’s assume that you look through the densest shades of optimism, could the Orange go 8-4? Running a Monte Carlo simulation — simulating outcomes 10,000 times — yields an ugly result: There’s about a 3-4% chance that a 19-win campaign happens.

Could Syracuse improve and/or get insanely lucky and start killing alpha predators out of the blue and legitimately erase 19 games of mediocre basketball? Sure. But the odds of it happening aren’t great: Syracuse is, just like every other team in the country, a composite of its good, bad, and everything in between. And that composite, unless something drastically changes from a production standpoint, is a team that is almost as likely to go 15-16 as it is 16-15 — there’s around a 50% chance of this happening — with limited windows outside the projections.

Which brings us to this tweet: “Is the Syracuse basketball season over?” Of course not — Syracuse is still going to practice every day (I assume; I’m not stalking players or anything) and, hell, there’s still time to get things together. But outside of the nebulous question of “What does Syracuse have to do to not make me want to vomit blood?” there’s a more hopeful reality out there: There’s significantly more than a 0% chance that Syracuse grabs between one and two wins against top 20-caliber competition, even at it’s baseline level of “Meh.”

Look: Notre Dame, Florida State, Virginia, Louisville, and Duke are all better than the Orange according to basketball computers; against those five teams in six games, Syracuse is expected to win about 1.5 of those games based on the calculated win probabilities (even though the Orange will be an underdog in all of the games). So why not watch? Again: Your teeth are never as white as you think they are and you’re never as poorly dressed as a teenager would lead you to believe; even average teams can club good-to-very good teams. The odds are against Syracuse, but that doesn’t mean that fun times are absolutely prohibited from happening.