Syracuse making the Final Four of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, a competition they reportedly should not have even been invited to, is the season’s Cinderella story. But getting to the Final Four isn’t the same as getting to the final dance, and there aren’t many outside of Syracuse’s die-hard fan base that believe they can pull off the ultimate Cinderella win…
As the Syracuse Post-Standard noted March 30, the Syracuse Orange entered the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament as a No. 10 seed under the controversy of being chosen amidst other teams deemed by others (other than the NCAA selection committee) to be better qualified teams, carrying 13 losses and a regular season 10th-place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and as an enormous long-shot — 300/1 odds prior to the tourney — to win it all. Although those associated with the team dismiss the Cinderella appellation, it doesn’t get much more Cinderella-ish than that.
But can they win it all? Of course they can. A Cinderella has done it before. Villanova, a team also in the 2016 Final Four, became the lowest seed team — at No. 8 — to ever win the NCAA Tournament in 1985. Then there was Coach Jimmy Valvano’s 1983 North Carolina State team, a No. 6 seed, that scored a last-second win over heavily favored Houston. And it can be argued that No. 7 seed Connecticut’s win last year over a heralded Kentucky squad was also a Cinderella saga.
But some argue that Syracuse isn’t truly a Cinderella team, what with having been to the Final Four several times in the school’s history. In fact, Syracuse won it all in 2003, defeating a much-favored Kansas team — but the Orange did it as a non-Cinderella No. 3 seed at the time.
Still, not supposed to be invited, 300/1 odds — well, that’s Cinderella. But now Cinderella, who managed to get to The Big Dance, has to make the final dance. And to do so, they’ll have to get past the only remaining No. 1 seed in the tournament, North Carolina. And not many think the Orange have it in them, although Myron Metcalfe at ESPN.com noted that Syracuse has been a strong finisher with a tenacious come-from-behind mentality, that same offense cannot be trusted to deliver (as witness: 13 regular season losses).
Sportsline, which projects odds by running simulation models, sees the North Carolina Tarheels taking the national championship with 10/11 odds to win. Syracuse, of course, plays the Tarheels (a team they’ve lost to twice already by double digits this season) in the semi-final game in Houston, the game preceding the championship game, so… (Strangely enough, simulation show that if the final game is between North Carolina and Villanova, the Tarheels lose that match-up in 51 percent of the simulations. The Wildcats have the second best odds of winning the tourney at 5/2 odds.) Regardless, the Orange have the worst odds of the Final Four to win it all, 10/1.
Needless to say, if Syracuse should go on to win, the team will become the first ever No. 10 seed to take the championship. The Orange have already made history as being the first ever No. 10 seed to enter the Final Four.
Syracuse takes on North Carolina at 8:49 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, April 2 on the TBS network. The winner will play in the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament championship against the winner of the Oklahoma-Villanova game on Monday night, April 4, also on TBS.