It’s only natural to look at this year’s Syracuse basketball team and think, ‘What in the world do we have here?’ The common theme throughout the year, and especially since the brackets were released, has been the unpredictability of the squad. You’ve heard it and read about it enough. No need to harp on it. This team could bow out in its first game or go to the Elite 8. We got it.
Let’s look at what the Big East tournament did for the Orange. I’m not one of those people that believe a conference tournament will decide your NCAA Tournament fate. Not everyone is an incarnation of the 2011 UConn team that won five games in five days then six more in the NCAA Tourney. You can also win the Big East Tourney and have a poor NCAA Tournament showing. Isn’t this sport so reliable? So yes, the Big East Tourney helped Syracuse’s seeding, and perhaps confidence. SU hung with the big boys of Georgetown and Louisville (for a half at least).
But here’s the thing about the NCAA Tournament (not saying anything groundbreaking here)—it, like the Orange, is unpredictable. Lehigh can beat Duke. VCU or George Mason can make the Final Four.
It’s hard to predict the bracket. Experts may be “experts,” but they can’t predict luck or madness. Sure, Kentucky won it all last year to no one’s surprise. But the year before, UConn unexpectedly won it all. And the year before UConn it was Duke, again unexpectedly. Anyone remember Northern Iowa over Kansas in that bracket?
All you have to do is make it in the bracket. Seeding only takes you so far. After that, just win. Easy, right?
Syracuse fans have been spoiled as of late. Last year, essentially everyone knew the team was going to go far, as with the team of three years ago. Those squads were elite. This squad is not as elite, but we’ve seen it can play elite. Or, it can play like a team that has no offensive control, no shot-making ability, and no free-throw making ability.
Play like the first half of the Big East title game, and Final Four, here we come. Play like the second half of that same game, and the team will be making people in Montana quite the happy bunch.
I’m reluctant to even look past the Montana game because this team is that unpredictable. It’d be fitting for SU to lose to Montana, but it’d be equally fitting and humorous to see this squad make the Elite 8 for the second straight year.
Look, SU fans should be lucky not to have experiences being on the “bubble” in recent years. But now it needs to play with urgency. Jim Boeheim said he thinks this is the best the team has played all year.
This year, there is no Kris Joseph or Scoop Jardine to lead the way and intensity come Tourney time (Thursday). No Dion Waiters or Fab Melo either (wait, there was no Fab last year either). But SU has Brandon Triche and James Southerland, seniors who want to win. And Michael Carter-Williams is likely in his last year too. The urgency should be there regardless.
Now the team will head to California, San Jose specifically, to show us who it wants to be. The Orange will return East at some point. And SU hopes it’ll be bound for Washington, D.C. and the Sweet 16, and not Syracuse and the snow.
May as well just flip a coin. Heads, D.C., tails, Syracuse. Welcome to the madness.