Notching yet another Sweet 16 trip, it’s worth celebrating the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team, obviously. But with that celebration, it’s of course worth looking at how SU stacks up against its peers since this is how college sports work.
So we do just that below.
Since 2000, Syracuse has made 10 Sweet 16s (including this year) — which is tied for the sixth-best total in the time period. That list they’re tied with is fairly extensive, and includes UCLA, Gonzaga, Arizona and Wisconsin. Ahead of those schools are exactly the names you’ve probably ticked off in your head already: Duke (15), Kansas (13), Michigan State (12), Kentucky (12) and North Carolina (11).
In those nine trips to-date, the Orange are 4-5 but 3-1 once they get to the Elite 8 — the lone loss being a 2012 matchup with Ohio State that you all certainly remember.
The four Sweet 16 wins aren’t exactly a sterling record, unfortunately, when compared to other programs with at least seven trips to that round since 2000. Kansas has the most Sweet 16 wins with 10. Kentucky and UNC have each won nine, while Duke and Michigan State have each won eight games in the Sweet 16 during this stretch.
But even below SU, the 4-5 mark thus far doesn’t look too hot. Arizona’s 6-4. Florida’s a stunning 8-0. UConn and Louisville are both 6-1. Even Oregon’s 4-2. Only UCLA (3-6), Wisconsin (4-6) and West Virginia (2-5) have a worse record. The Zags are currently tied at 4-5, though it’s highly likely they’re 5-5 by the end of the weekend.
If you believe in the idea that the zone does a better job at flummoxing opponents on short rest, the Orange’s record in the Elite 8 vs. the Sweet 16 would seem to support that — especially when considering that Syracuse was the lesser seed in each of those three wins in the Elite 8 (and actually the better seed in the lone loss).
And while ‘Cuse took home its lone national title back in 2003, the stronger part of this timeframe has been the effort over the last 10 tournaments.
From 2011-21 (so obviously excluding last year’s, which didn’t happen), SU has made five Sweet 16s and gone to the Elite 8 three times... and could be four if they can beat Houston on Saturday.
When stacking them up once again in that stretch, just six teams have made the Sweet 16 more times since 2011 — and the best of those (Kentucky) is just two trips ahead, with seven.
While we certainly don’t want to turn this into an “is SU a blueblood?” conversation — since they aren’t — we’ll avoid using this to extrapolate anything out beyond saying that Syracuse has been one of the more consistently successful teams in the tournament over the last decade. The lack of actual bluebloods (save maybe UCLA) getting to the second weekend here in 2021 simply puts a greater spotlight on that fact. With luck, Jim Boeheim’s team gets to make this last decade of postseason achievement all the more impressive with a couple more wins and another (surprise) Final Four trip.