There have been a lot of things that have gone up and down this year in Syracuse. The weather, Lamar Jackson and the men’s basketball team.
The latter has experienced a roller coaster ride since November. There were some pretty extreme lows for this version of the Orange. Think back to the 33-point home loss to St. John’s. Or the dud against Boston College. Or even the one-point loss at MSG to UCONN. Take your pick there about which is the most painful.
“After the start we had,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said, “it was thought that we wouldn’t make the NIT.”
On the flip side, there were some pretty intense highs. Beating then-No. 6 Florida State. Upsetting Virginia, again. And, of course, John Gillon hitting the mother of all buzzer-beaters to knock off Duke.
Each of those wins featured a court storming.
In other words, this wasn’t your typical Syracuse season.
The fans don’t usually storm the court when beating ACC opponents. Boeheim will only get his 1,000th win once. The atmosphere around Syracuse was different this year.
Even Boeheim admitted it.
“The fans have been great all year,” he said. “This [Georgia Tech game] was just another example of that.”
The legendary coach even seemed to take a moment to take it all in. He seemed to take an extra second before leaving the floor to admire all of the fans celebrating his 1,000 career victory following the comeback against Virginia.
Syracuse forward Tyler Lydon noticed the atypical year, as well.
“It had a lot of ups and downs, but we found who we are at the end of the season,” he said. “We’re a bunch of fighters.”
Still, for a team that started the season ranked, the Orange had to scrap just to be on the NCAA bubble.
“It is a little disappointing,” Lydon said. “Everyone in this locker room will tell you that.”
Lydon is right. There was talk at the beginning of this year that this was the most talented team that Boeheim has ever assembled in Central New York. That might still be true, but the results don’t necessarily reflect it.
He has preached all year that they have the least experienced team in the country, with four new starters and a sophomore in Lydon.
One of those new starters was Andrew White.
“This is the kind of opportunity I’ve wanted my whole life,” he said. “I love this team. We had the opportunity to quit on this season. We lost at home and got booed off our own floor.”
No, they didn’t quit. And, as a result, the Orange is set for some very meaningful postseason basketball.
Syracuse has a chance though to bolster its credentials Wednesday against Miami in the second round of the ACC Tournament.
The Orange played there in November to a pro-Syracuse crowd. But don’t tell Jim Boeheim that the Brooklyn crowd will help SU, though.
“It helped us a lot against South Carolina,” Boeheim said.
Then again, this is a far different team than the one that took the court against the Gamecocks.
“They’ve come a long ways,” Boeheim said. “I think we’re a pretty good team and when we’re shooting the ball, we’re a real good basketball team.”