What a year for Syracuse athletics. Among the basketball team’s rise to the No. 1 team in the country and the football team’s return to relevance with a bid to the Pinstripe Bowl and lacrosse’s dominant regular season, there has been no shortages of stories. These are the top five:
1. 34,616 = 1. A record on-campus crowd of 34,616 watched as No. 4 Syracuse knocked off No. 7 Villanova, 95-77. The win gave the Orange a share of the Big East regular season title — which it would later win outright — and its first No. 1 ranking since 1990. It also, in most people’s minds, secured the Orange’s No. 1 seed in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
2. Jekyll and Hyde. The Syracuse University football team went undefeated on the road and winless at home in Big East play. When head coach Doug Marrone has a few minutes to reflect, he certainly will wonder what could have been. What if his Orange squad managed to pick up just one more win inside the Carrier Dome?
While the struggles at home are certainly mind-boggling, the perfect conference road record is most impressive. Syracuse won four Big East road games for the first time since conference play began in 1991 – at South Florida, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Rutgers. Something to build on in 2011.
3. Goin’ bowlin’. The Orange will return to the postseason for the first time since 2004. Ever since the Pinstripe Bowl was announced as a new bowl on March 9, Orange fans — and athletic director Daryl Gross — have had their sights set on Yankee Stadium. And why not? The expectations for this season were for nothing less than a 7-5 or 8-4 team that would contend in a weaker-than-usual Big East and make a bowl game. Now, on Dec. 30, the Orange will head to the Bronx looking for their first postseason victory since 2001, when it coincidentally beat… Kansas State.
4. Feeling a draft. With the fourth pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Wesley Johnson from Syracuse University. Johnson averaged 16.5 points per game and 42 percent from the 3-point range. A transfer from Iowa State, he helped lead the Orange back to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season. He now joins former Orange teammate Jonny Flynn on the Timberwolves roster.
Later that evening, Syracuse guard Andy Rautins traded the orange and blue of upstate New York for the orange and blue of downstate New York, as the Knicks took him with the 38th overall pick. He was one of the most improved players throughout his five years in college and a true leader on the court.
5. Third time’s not a charm. In the opening round of the 2010 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Division I Championship, Army stunned Syracuse in overtime at the Carrier Dome. The 9-8 loss was the first time Syracuse lost a tournament game in the Dome since 1991. After regular season wins against No. 11 Georgetown, No. 7 John Hopkins, No. 5 Princeton, No. 10 Cornell and a one-point loss against No. 2 Virginia, a deep tournament run seemed imminent. Syracuse let a 5-1 first-half lead slip to 8-6 with just with 12:05 to play. From there, the meltdown was on. The three-peat was not to be.
Do you agree with the top five? Leave your own version in the comments section below.
Micah Tannenbaum is the football editor for The Juice Online.