Let’s start with a quote a wise person I know once wrote:
“If SU’s past tells us anything, it doesn’t matter what happened in the regular season, you just have to get into the tournament. All that matters is the scoreboard going forward.”
Now, I don’t normally quote myself unless I’m spot on.
That was a quote from my column last month, right before the start of the NCAA tournament, when I wrote about Syracuse basketball’s unpredictability.
I alluded to the 2012-2013 team, which had a solid but unspectacular regular season before making a run to the Final Four, and said we don’t know how we’ll feel about a team until the season ends.
Like that team, this year’s iteration had an unspectacular regular season. But while the team of three years ago comfortably made the tourney, this year’s squad did just enough to get into the NCAA tournament as a 10-seed, where, for lack of a better term, they turned IT UP. Way up.
Every team that’s going through a special run feels like the greatest team ever. If it’s the hockey playoffs, hockey is the greatest sport. If I’m following my team in the baseball playoffs, that’s the greatest. So it’s no surprise that this SU run felt like the greatest thing ever. In the moment, we tend to amplify these accomplishments.
However, this run, by this team, actually was different. It was a 10-seed. It beat a one-seed to make the Final Four with arguably the craziest comeback of all-time. That game was worth the heartbreak of losing the next. The 2013 Final Four team will always hold a special place in my heart because I was a senior at Syracuse. And we dominated our way to the Final Four.
But the game against Virginia in the Elite Eight the other weekend, just…wow. Unbelievable grit and resolve. That game made this year’s team “special.”
It was an emotional run. The detractors came out, but Cuse didn’t care. Just win. And it did, until of course it ran into North Carolina.
Now that it’s been more than a week since the Orange lost, the dust has settled. This team was indeed special. Next year’s team could win many more games and receive a higher seed. But if it loses in the second round, it won’t be as special. Sure, you can appreciate a good regular season. But more people remember what happens when the stakes are raised.
And the 2015-2016 Syracuse Orange did just that. It was a joy to watch. What a ride. It will never be repeated, or forgotten. The Final frickin’ Four. How ‘bout that. Next time, just finish the job, OK?