PITTSBURGH – If you are a ‘Cuse fan 36 years old or younger, you only know Orange hoops under the direction of Jim Boeheim. The same coach, whose team nearly dropped its NCAA opener here Thursday afternoon against UNC-Asheville and nearly became the first top seed to lose to a 16th seed.
Who knows? The hoop boss might have conceivably coached his final game, as unbelievable as that may sound, with all that’s transpired this year and just this week.
He’s said himself he can start to see where retirement comes into the picture down the road, just how long that road is remains to be seen.
The Orange’s (32-2) performance and survival on the court to advance to the round of 32 Saturday afternoon (12:15 CBS) against 8th-seed Kansas State (22-10) at the Consol Energy Center was practically ignored with all the news that developed after the game.
You had both head coaches talking about who was or wasn’t the better team. You had Boeheim diverting off course to clarify the record after being taken to school by the U.S. Secretary of Education, and ex-college basketball player, Arne Duncan concerning SU’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) in a media conference call on Wednesday.
By the time Friday’s off day media sessions were over, including Boeheim verbally jousting with ex-NBA star Reggie Miller who’s part of the TV broadcast crew, it makes us want to say enough with sound-bite central, the Cuse has an obstacle test to get to Boston next week.
Up next is a familiar inter-sectional football foe (bowl opponents in 1997, 2001 and ’11) in Kansas State. But when it comes to meeting the Wildcats in NCAA hoops, well… that goes all the way back to, believe it or not, when there was a time that Jim Boeheim was not the head coach.
To remember that you had to have been born in the mid 1960s or earlier.
It was 1975 to be exact when the Orangemen and ‘Cats met in the East Regional Final at the Providence Civic Center, with Boeheim finishing his 6th season assisting Roy Danforth either as a graduate or full time assistant.
Two days earlier in the regional semi-finals the 21-7 Orangemen, known only as a regional program socked away in the upstate New York snow belt, had shocked the college hoops world by knocking off top-seed North Carolina (who shot 65% and lost) on a Jimmy Lee jumper with :05 left. How SU would go on to beat K-State was even more improbable.
With the ‘Cats up two with :05 left, lighting-quick guard Jim “Bug” Williams took the inbound pass and dribbled quickly into the front court and found center Rudy Hackett floating into the lane. Hackett turned and hit a hook shot just as the buzzer sounded to force overtime, and a stunned KSU never recovered with the Orange hitting key outside shots to win going away by eight in OT.
History aside, Saturday’s meeting with K-State is a chance for this number-one seeded team, now taking an us against the NCAA world approach, to let its play speak more loudly than any more off the court chatter.