Item: It’s also been nine years since Syracuse last participated in the NIT, an event it’s come close to winning once in 12 previous all-time appearances. When the Orange (18-14) host Southern Conference member UNC-Greensboro (25-9) in the first round tonight amidst an expected March blizzard throughout the northeast (7:00 p.m. ET / ESPN), and with the delightful sense of humor displayed by all involved to bring last week’s verbal and social media combatants Boeheim and all-things Greensboro, N.C. together face-to-face, we also know this evening’s game is the beginning towards the end of the road of the unmatchable Boeheim era.
Here’s a look back at the only nine seasons that Syracuse did not compete for the NCAA national championship since Boeheim took the helm in 1976:
1980-81 – Bad timing was front and center following the Orangemen’s thrilling 83-80 triple overtime win over Big East rookie member Villanova in the conference tournament championship game played at the Dome, capping off three wins in three days. The relatively new Big East was still a year away from securing its automatic NCAA bid, and an 18-11 record simply didn’t impress the committee nixing Syracuse for an at-large bid (Villanova did get a bid), and causing Boeheim to whine loud and hard about being kept out of the NCAA Tourny (to a much more limited media universe that existed in March 1981), sound familiar? The ‘Cuse went all the way to the NIT title game just falling short to a Nolan Richardson-coached Tulsa team 86-84 in overtime.
1981-82 – Non-conference losses to Saint Joseph’s in the Dome, against Fordham on a neutral court, and at Ohio State contributed to a 15-11 regular season. One and done in the conference tournament (Boston College), followed by a win (St. Peter’s) and loss (Bradley) in the NIT ended this forgetful season.
1992-93 – The culmination of the release of the book “Raw Recruits” in March of 1990, citing recruiting irregularities in the program tied to Brooklyn-based Orange fanatic Rob Johnson, had Syracuse being banned by the NCAA from tournament play for 1993. SU participated in the Big East tournament held during a rare March blizzard in New York City (sound familiar?) getting blown out by Seton Hall 103-70 in the title game.
1996-97 – The NIT opener before an announced crowd of 5,385 in the Dome (cut that number to about half for the actual number of attendees) against Florida State, a season after making it all the way to the NCAA title game versus Kentucky at the jam-packed (19,229 were shoehorned into the building) N.J. Meadowlands (Continental) Arena, the last Final Four held at a non-dome stadium, was about as polar opposite of environments as you could imagine. Final Score: Florida State 82, Syracuse 67.
2001-02 – The NIT semifinal game appearance this season will always be remembered as the “three uniform game” with both Syracuse and South Carolina coming out in white jerseys and shorts before tipoff at Madison Square Garden. After a police-escorted trip back to the SU hotel to retrieve the team’s orange road uniforms, the players changed on the sideline and wore orange jerseys and white shorts for the bulk of the first half, followed by the all-orange look in the second half. The switch of attire hardly mattered as the Gamecocks won 66-59. SU dropped the third place game to Temple two days later ending another season to forget, but foreshadowing the lone NCAA title a year later.
2006-07 – Despite finishing 22-10 overall and 10-6 in the Big East, and winning six of its last eight games, SU was not selected by the committee for an at-large bid, registering howls of protest throughout upstate New York. The message was driven home when an NIT record crowd of 26,752 turned out at the Dome for the 80-64 win over San Diego State in the second round.
2007-08 – A rare non-20-win regular season was followed by one and done in the Big East tournament (Villanova), sending SU to the NIT for back-to-back seasons. After wins over Robert Morris and Maryland, Boeheim nemesis Massachusetts (0-4 all-time) ended the Orange campaign 81-77 at the Dome.
2014-15 – The University announces Feb. 4, 2015 that there will be no postseason play for the Orange in response to a long-running NCAA inquiry into the athletic department, including the basketball and football programs. The culmination of the investigation leads to numerous changes within Manley Field House, including the removal of athletic director Daryl Gross, the NCAA stripping Boeheim of 101 career victories, and recruiting sanctions that still continue to be felt to some degree two seasons later.
2016-17 – South Carolina 64, Syracuse 50. Wisconsin 77, Syracuse 60. Connecticut 52, Syracuse 50. Georgetown 78, Syracuse 71. St. John’s 93, Syracuse 60. Boston College 96, Syracuse 81. That long equation = an unfamiliar and hollow destination to grab a taste of “Madness” for a program of Syracuse’s historical success.