I don’t usually post about my alma mater’s basketball team, but their performance this week at the Big East tournament was just too spectacular to let go without some recognition. Maybe its the Garden and its amazing ability to bring the best out of certain players and teams. Maybe its cheezy coaches polls that are critical of the team’s star player. No matter what the motivator, the run that my Syracuse Orange(men) just pulled off was one of the best I’ve seen for this program, and (at risk of dating myself) I’ve been actively following them for close to 20 years now.
While its not as good as the 2003 National Championship, the 1996 run to the National Finals, and the 1987 run to the National Finals, its in the same ball park. The reason is that when this week started, the Syracuse basketball team was on life support. They had a 19-11 record with some really ugly losses (by 39 points to DePaul…yikes!), and few strong wins. Without a doubt, they were a team on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament fence as they entered this week’s Big East tournament. For Gerry McNamara, Syracuse’s senior shooting guard, the week started with a couple of polls stating that he was the most overrated player in the Big East. But by the end of this week, he is the king of NYC and the Big East.
So as I sit here after just witnessing the amazing 4 game run that my Orange(men) just pulled off to claim their 5th Big East Tournament Championship, and 2nd title in a row, it just leaves this SU alum speechless. They essentially took themselves from being an NIT team to somewhere between a #6-8 seed in the NCAA tournament. Its not as much the fact that they won the Big East Tournament, but its the manner in which they won, and the teams they beat along the way. They beat two of their biggest rivals in UConn and Georgetown (Beating UConn, especially when they are #1 in the country, is sweet, but beating Georgetown in the Big East tournament always makes the basketball season that much sweeter), and, arguably, their 3rd biggest rival in the University of Pittsburgh. For Gerry McNamara, he essentially put the team on his shoulders, making clutch shot after clutch shot, and single handedly beating Cincinnati in the first round and UConn (#1 in the country) in the 2nd round. Now let’s hope that they do not have a let down after this amazing run and replicate their unceremonious 1st round loss in last year’s NCAA’s.
Oh Well: The jubilation was short lived as the Orange were efficiently dispatched from the NCAA Tournament by Texas A&M. It was a classic #5 vs. #12 seed upset special. The Orange did not deserve such a high seeding. They were not that good a team.
Random thoughts….Did anyone notice that for all the frivolous expansion that the Big East did this year, and all the changes, that the league went through, that the final four teams were all original members of the league – SU, Georgetown, Villanova and U of Pittsburgh….Loved the fact that Derrick Coleman and “Pearl” Washington was on hand at MSG rooting on the Orange….While Boeheim has at least a 10 year pass now for winning the National Championship in 2003, his game coaching did not make these wins any easier…I love the way that ESPN dregs up fossils like Bucky Waters to analyze the WAC tournament, like he is going to know anything about the teams in that league…