Syracuse has won 31 games to this point. They’ve set a Big East record with 17 conference wins. They were No. 1 for more than a month.
All nice things. All school or conference records.
All things that have exactly zero relevance now. Seasons aren’t measured by wins in December or January. They’re measured by wins in March.
And as I type this, the Orange has exactly zero wins in the NCAA tournament.
Syracuse will start its quest for the Final Four this Thursday in Pittsburgh, and there’s no question that it’s Final Four or bust.
Let me repeat that—if Syracuse doesn’t play in New Orleans, this season will be a failure.
“We’re trying to win the NCAA Tournament. That’s the main focus,” guard Dion Waiters said. “That’s the main goal and that’s what we all talked about at the end of the day.”
It’s all the goal has ever been.
Sure, it’s nice that Syracuse was No. 1 for a decent stretch of the season.
But you know what? Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins’ 2009-10 team was No. 1, too.
That team was entertaining, unselfish and very talented. But all anyone ever says about that team is how Arinze Onuaku’s knee injury ruined their season. A Sweet 16 was simply not enough.
Success in the Big East championship? Sure that is a nice footnote, but the last two times SU has done that, first round NCAA exits have followed.
Do we remember Hakim Warrick hoisting the Big East championship trophy, or do we just repeat after Gus Johnson: “Sorrentine… hit that one from the parking lot!”
In fact, in Boeheim’s four other Final Four appearances, exactly zero of those teams won a conference tournament.
So now, the real season begins, and the goal isn’t exactly easy to get to.
In SU’s own region, a possible second-round matchup with No. 8 Kansas State looms. Cincinnati, one of two teams that have already beaten Syracuse, is the No. 6 team. If SU can advance to the Elite 8, a possible date with Jared Sullinger and No. 2 Ohio State await them.
“The way college basketball is now, whoever you are, whether you’re VCU or Syracuse, the only thing that really matters is how you do in the tournament,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We know that, and we’re going to be prepared for that.”
We’re about to find out how prepared SU really is.