The math behind Bracketology is pretty simple. There are 351 teams in Division I and 68 spots in the bracket.
That means, at any given time, supporters of at least 283 schools aren't going to like me. And there's nothing anyone -- including me -- can do to change that reality.
One would think, however, with so many schools in the mix and so much variability from season to season, that the odds of repeatedly aggravating the same fan base would be low. The real acrimony lies in the "last four in" and "first four out" groups, which represent just 2.3 percent of Division I basketball.
So wouldn't it take an almost uncanny set of circumstances for any team to land in that range year after year after year? Again, one would think so.
Oh, sure, we had fun with Seth Greenberg and Virginia Tech a few times, but never did the Hokies make or miss the NCAA field in opposition to our final Selection Sunday projections. And there was once a Champ Week call from the governor of a certain Big Ten state (think four letters) who didn't like our evaluation of the home team.
By and large, though, every season is its own entity, and most fan bases are willing to forgive and forget the next time their favorite team is really good. The annual back-and-forth is just the cost of doing business, an occupational hazard if you will. I've regretted only a handful of final selections over the years, given the enormous amount of analysis that goes into them.
Except for you-know-who, the team that -- incredibly, improbably, uncannily -- is once again you-know-where. In other words, what have we done to offend the bracket gods so badly that "Syracuse" and "bubble team" are once again leading storylines heading into the prime Bracketology period?
Not just any bubble team, mind you, but as of today, the Orange are the very last team in our projected field. And every indication is that Syracuse will remain in exactly that range, like an iffy weather forecast, ready to ruin Selection Sunday in one direction or the other.
First, the history:
In 2007, a thoroughly ordinary Syracuse team mounted a five-game February winning streak to reach 10-6 in a six-bid Big East. However mediocre, never had a team with that profile missed the NCAA tournament. Yours truly had the Orange solidly in the field, not even on the bubble. But in a year in which the selection committee gave us Texas Tech (21-12, 9-7 Big 12), Stanford (18-12, 10-8 Pac-10), Arkansas (21-13, 7-9 SEC), Illinois (23-11, 9-7 Big Ten) and Georgia Tech (20-11, 8-8 ACC), the Orange went to the NIT. At the Final Four, coach Jim Boeheim took one look at me in a Georgia Dome concourse and said, with epic sarcasm, "You finally got it right."
In 2008, an even more ordinary Syracuse team lost seven of 10 games down the stretch, including a blowout loss to Villanova in the first game of the Big East tournament. This led to yours truly bashing the Orange as an NCAA at-large candidate and an on-camera bashing in return from a certain head coach, perhaps still salty from the prior year. But the Orange were just 19-13 on Selection Sunday (9-9 Big East) and a nonfactor for the selection committee.
Skip ahead to 2015, and Syracuse declares itself ineligible for the postseason amid an NCAA investigation. A certain Bracketologist doubts the magnanimity of the move, given the team's 18-13 record (9-9, now in the ACC). My inbox is not a pretty place.
A year later, the Orange weather Boeheim's suspension for the first half of the ACC season, winning four in a row upon his return to reach 8-5 in the conference. The assumption is the selection committee will give Syracuse a pass for at least some of the losses suffered without him. Regardless, the Orange lose five of their last six with Boeheim on the bench and are loudly removed from the field by your favorite Bracketologist. The Orange make the tournament anyway, the selection committee pointing to a win at Duke a full two months earlier (achieved without Boeheim, by the way). Overall, Syracuse is 4-9 against the field, including four straight losses at the end of the year. Naturally, they make the Final Four -- and you can still see the egg on my face.
Finally, 2017 hits, and so does the overcompensation. The Orange have a winning ACC record and a far better mark against tourney-bound teams. I put them in, and the selection committee leaves them out. My love-hate relationship with Syracuse fans -- meaning, they love to hate me! -- comes full circle.
Full disclosure: I've come to really like Boeheim as a straight shooter and fantastic coach. He knows everything about every team and is always dead-on in his assessments. That said, I once again have no idea where his team is headed.
My head says the Orange (15-6, 4-4) are overachieving and don't have quite enough to land an NCAA bid. They are 0-5 against the best teams on their schedule to date and must still host Virginia and North Carolina while visiting Louisville, Miami and Duke. A winning ACC record seems too much to ask.
All my heart wants is a clear-cut evaluation. Or a 69th team in the NCAA tournament for when that evaluation goes awry. Again.
But this time, I'm blaming the bracket gods.