Yesterday, Ben wrote up a story about next year’s Syracuse Orange basketball roster and recruiting, talking about how next year may be rough, before setting up a very good 2018-19.
That served as a jumping-off point for an interesting conversation in the comment section about the baseline expectation for Syracuse hoops from year-to-year, and how that compares to other top programs. I wanted to expand upon that a little bit here.
To start: What is the baseline for Syracuse every season?
Since the 1972-73 season (we’ll use this as an arbitrary starting point for the “modern” era of the program) has never missed more than two straight NCAA Tournaments. However, they have pulled off that “achievement” two separate times -- 1981 & 1982, 2007 & 2008. But both of those occurrences seemed to set up more prosperous futures. After the 1982 miss, Syracuse made 10 straight tourneys. After sitting it out in 2008, the Orange made six straight and seven of eight — including two Final Fours, an Elite 8 and two Sweet 16s.
Going back to the arbitrary starting point, SU’s made the NCAA Tournament 36 times in 45 tries — a clip of 80 percent. That may not compete with the likes of Kansas and North Carolina in terms of frequency, but that figure’s still among the top 10 in the country for that stretch of time.
So part one of the “baseline” for Syracuse would be making the tournament eight out of every 10 years, and ideally, the NCAAs are your minimum achievement each season. When you miss, you’re barely on the outside (as we saw this year).
But then once we get to the tournament, is there an additional baseline? What’s the expectation once we’re there?
In the 45-year stretch we’re looking at, Syracuse has made six Final Fours (13.33 percent), eight Elite 8s (17.78 percent) and 20 Sweet 16s (44.44 percent).
While making the Sweet 16 would probably be the desired minimum for most SU fans, those percentages show that an expectation of it still leaves you disappointed more than half of the time. However, adjusted for years when Syracuse makes the tournament, the percentage (for Sweet 16s) sits at 55.55 percent -- far more reasonable, really.
If you look at some of the programs we’re aspiring to inhabit space with, here’s how their own respective numbers break down:
Kentucky: 37 out of 45; 26 out of 37 in Sweet 16 (70.2 percent)
North Carolina: 40 out of 45; 28 out of 40 in Sweet 16 (70 percent)
Duke: 36 out of 45; 25 out of 36 in Sweet 16 (69.4 percent)
Connecticut: 22 out of 45; 15 out of 22 in Sweet 16 (68.1 percent)
Louisville: 35 out of 45; 22 out of 35 in Sweet 16 (62.9 percent)
UCLA: 35 out of 45; 22 out of 35 in Sweet 16 (62.8 percent)
Kansas: 37 out of 45; 23 out of 37 in Sweet 16 (62.2 percent)
Michigan State: 29 out of 45; 17 out of 29 in Sweet 16 (58.6 percent)
Arizona: 32 out of 45; 18 out of 32 in Sweet 16 (56.3 percent)
Indiana: 34 out of 45; 18 out of 34 in Sweet 16 (52.9 percent)
Georgetown: 29 out of 45; 11 out of 29 in Sweet 16 (37.9 percent)
Villanova: 27 out of 45; 10 out of 27 in Sweet 16 (37 percent)
Syracuse only beats Indiana, Georgetown (lulz) and Villanova in terms of percentage of Sweet 16 appearances, though they’re actually tied for fourth (with Duke) in terms of total bids in this stretch. As one might have assumed going in, UConn did the most with the least opportunities.
We could expand this conversation out further to look at recent Final Four bids, etc., but honestly, Sweet 16s might be all we need. The Orange are near the bottom of this list, meaning anything else is reserved for more aspirational seasons. We’ve had plenty of those, mind you. But if you’re close to a 50-50 split on making it to the Sweet 16, it would seem that’s your most likely result in a given year.
So to conclude: our annual baseline is NCAA Tournament, while accepting the fact we’ll miss a couple in a given decade. Once we’re there, Sweet 16’s a reasonable expectation each time out -- especially given the seeding Syracuse usually gets (top-four). With six Final Four trips in 36 tournaments, we could sort of expect to make it to the final weekend once every six or so tries.
Disagree with the premise? Think we should aspire for more? Less? Share your own thoughts below.