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Nothing Matters Besides March For Syracuse Hoops

It always cracks me up during the regular season when I hear many inside the Syracuse hoops fan base complain about the team. From the game passing Jim Boeheim by to the same stale offense to the 2-3 Zone not working to horrendous recruiting, to not being able to compete in the ACC, the list is long.

And yet, it just doesn’t matter.

Why? Because Syracuse figures out a way to get into the tournament, blood pressure is damned for the Orange faithful. Selection Sunday is a day that drags with stress not knowing if Syracuse is in or out based on that “mediocre” season. But they get in. They almost always get in. And then? No one wants to play them. And they win!

2013-2014 was the first year in the ACC. That Orange outfit started 25-0 but stumbled in the tournament, losing up the thruway in Buffalo to Dayton. So, let’s take it from there (Six Sweet 16s, two Elite 8s, one Final Four, and a title that happened from 2000 to this point!). Syracuse, by the way, isn’t remembered for going 25-0 that year as much as it is for losing to a mid-major from the Atlantic 10 with home-court advantage in Western New York.

Syracuse was horrendous in 2014-15, going 18-13, losing to St. John’s at home, and went 9-9 in ACC play. There was no postseason, it was just an awful year across the board.

Then, in 2015-16, Syracuse was up and down all year, losing again at home to St. John’s, losing twice to unranked Pittsburgh and once to unranked Clemson, lost the last three and five out of six and finished .500 in conference play. But, they also beat UConn and Texas A&M in the Battle 4 Atlantis and beat Duke. SU was flat on the bubble, with highs and lows, but got in as a 10-seed and then magic happened. The Orange beat Dayton, Middle Tennessee State (upset #2 Michigan State in the first round), Gonzaga, and Virginia in comeback fashion. No one remembered then or remembers now those bad regular-season losses. We remember Malachi Richardson with circles around his eyes in One Shining Moment, Tyler Lydon’s tourney blocks in the clutch, Trevor Cooney’s postseason hustle, and Michael Gbinije’s March poise. We remember March and the 2-3 Zone. Syracuse went to the Final Four. That’s what we remember.

2017-18? Lost five of eight to end the year and were brutal offensively during several stretches of the season. No problem. Bubble team. Selection Sunday approaches. In the Big Dance as a Last Four. Beat Arizona State, TCU, and Michigan State. Sweet 16 yet again (fell to Duke in the Regional Semifinal). No one remembered then and no one remembers now the three losses when you scored in the ’40s or the bad turnovers or the zone getting lit up from 3-point land. We remembered and still remember the comeback against Arizona State thanks to Oshae Brissett’s double-double and Pascal Chukwu’s clutch free throws at the end. After that, it was stifling defense and big shots against TCU and Michigan State. It’s how you finish, not how you start. March matters. December, frankly, doesn’t.

2019-2020 was shut down from the Corona Virus. Syracuse didn’t look the tournament part for a majority of the season, but it was playing well going into the home stretch when things shut down. The Orange won four of six to close but never truly got a chance to finish as the Louisville game was canceled and then everything else. Elijah Hughes was amazing all season. Fans chirped mediocrity and complained about everything else as usual, but no postseason made the regular season irrelevant in a different way.

And this past campaign? No fans. Constant testing. Constant cancellations. Constant unknowns. But the team battled and was up and down and no one really knew who it was. No big out-of-conference wins (COVID didn’t help the schedule) and losses in three of the first four ACC games which followed a postponed tilt with Notre Dame and a canceled game with Wake Forest. SU figured it out down the stretch though, winning six of nine, including two big ones against North Carolina and Clemson. 16-9 overall. 9-7 in the ACC. Good enough. Into the Big Dance, the Orange went and they flourished. Buddy Boeheim’s 30-point game and suffocating 2-3 Zone defense against San Diego State and more of the same against West Virginia, although Buddy slacked with 25. Sweet 16. Again. One Shining Moment. Again. Do you see how this works?

You Syracuse fans are spoiled, flat-out spoiled. Every year, just about, you’re in the tournament and make runs in March. You might have to stress a bunch leading up to and during Selection Sunday, but it’s all worth it when you see the ‘Cuse in the big bracket. And from there, so it goes. Win today, move on, lose today, go home. No one wants to play Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. Most don’t see a 2-3 Zone during the regular season. They prepare for it, and then can’t beat it. Jim Boeheim is a wizard in March. The offense comes together and someone, somehow, turns into a tournament hero time and time and time again. Richardson, Boeheim, Lydon, Brissett, Tyus Battle, whoever.

All that complaining is the energy you could spend elsewhere because it simply doesn’t matter if recruiting is down because of the sanctions or Mike Hopkins not around anymore. Go complain about something else besides Jim Boeheim’s stale offense during the regular season, because at the snap of a finger guys come through in March. Don’t bother yelling about .500 records in ACC play and the same old defense. Because that same old defense becomes an X-factor in March, something no one wants. And don’t complain about Jim Boeheim being too old or the game passing him by in December and January. He knows March. He figures out March. He plays out of timeouts and his 2-3 masterpiece work.

Complain about something else during the regular season, maybe the snowfall?

But remember, like the Syracuse Orange’s regular season, the snow eventually melts, too.

Mike Lindsley
Follow Mike Lindsley on Twitter @MikeLSports and download his podcast the “ML Sports Platter” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Spotify.