Orange Fizz


Is Syracuse A Lucky Team?

Photo Courtesy of SU Athletics

If you hate advanced analytics and everything about them, this might just be the article for you. As Syracuse attempts to stampede its way into March Madness, rankings by way of the NCAA’s NET system and KenPom have had Orange fans going berserk. Why SU sits behind both Pitt and NC State in the NET despite having swept both teams is a debate for another time. Today we’re going to focus on a KenPom specific stat- luck. According to those rankings, Syracuse is the sixth-luckiest team out of 362 Division I schools.

With two games left in the regular season, SU sits at 19-10 overall and 10-8 in ACC play. There have been highs like upsetting North Carolina and pulling a miracle out against Colgate. There have been lows as well, including tough road losses to Boston College and Georgia Tech and getting absolutely curb-stomped by the likes of Wake Forest, Duke, UNC, and Virginia. The road to getting here may have been bumpy or uneven, but if you told Orange fans coming into the season that’s where they’d sit, “lucky” is probably not a term many of them would coin.

To put things into bigger perspective, here is the exact order of KenPom’s supposed luckiest teams in the conference- Syracuse, Virginia, Georgia Tech, (a gap of 138 spots in between) Pittsburgh, Florida State, NC State, Clemson, Louisville, Boston College, North Carolina, Miami, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Duke, Wake Forest. This was through last night’s games by the way. If this is screaming “what on Earth”, you’re probably right. Should a supposedly good enough to make the tournament team like Wake Forest be losing to Notre Dame? Probably not, yet the Demon Deacons apparently have had little-to-no luck in their season. Also, Duke and UNC being two of the supposed unluckiest teams shouldn’t surprise either.

The big question becomes exactly what Syracuse wins would you quantify as lucky? Only two come to mind. Oregon was depleted with injuries at the big-man position in Sioux Falls, but that was a 20-point game. Miami didn’t have Norchad Omier when it visited Central New York, admittedly who knows how that game changes. But that is an incredibly small sample size.

Finally, is battling through all the adversity Syracuse has battled through luck? Naheem McLeod’s injury, Adrian Autry’s Wake Forest presser, Benny Williams’ dismissal, Justin Taylor’s struggles, yet the Orange are in a position to make a power play move into the tournament conversation. That is not purely a product of luck. This team has responded to adversity time and time again, and it takes things a lot more powerful than luck for that to happen.

This is not an all-out attack on advanced analytics. They can be very useful in evaluating a team’s performance, but they should not be the end all be all, especially when evaluating something like the NCAA Tournament. Don’t take too much stock in KenPom’s luck metric hating Syracuse. Hope that SU takes care of business at Louisville and Clemson and in the ACC Tournament.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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