Hard to write. The end? It can’t be the end. Not with this collection of teammates – a sum which was greater than its parts.
The unknown transfer from Iowa State turning into a Big East superstar. The rookie point guard who played like a senior. The coach who squeezed everything he could out of a team picked to be NIT bound.
That was it? An awful first-half against a five-seed? A lucky carom for Butler on a back-breaking three? An ill-advised hoist by Rautins? And that’s it? The whole, magical carpet ride is over?
This team gave us so many incredible moments – the thrashing of Georgetown (twice), Nova’geddon, the number-one ranking – it would be unfair to focus solely on the negative. But boy, negative is where we should probably start and end.
How could this team come out so flat in the Sweet 16? It was like the Orange had no idea what was at stake – that somehow, this was just a tune-up to the actual game – the first 20 minutes were layup lines.
But those minutes counted. And let’s count the mistakes by the ‘Cuse: The Bulldogs were far more active defensively – sticking their paws inside for every SU pass. The Orange was sloppy – committing 10 turnovers before Butler had given away one.
Syracuse was lazy – the normal energy brought to the zone turned into jogging and half-speed commitment to defense. There was little emphasis on getting Wes his shots – which was as paramount as any offensive gameplan.
Wes, himself, was apathetic. He waited – and waited – for the game to come to him, instead of demanding the ball and his shots. Maybe that nice guy demeanor – that mega-watt smile which lit up the 315 – was too nice for the moment that demanded a taste of S.O.B.
By the time Syracuse found its way, a four-point lead late – it was simply a mirage. Lackadaisical defense. A lucky Butler bounce on the three. An awful decision to toss up a bad-looking three-point attempt by Rautins. Sloppy ball-handling.
And that was it.
The Per’fesser pushed all the right buttons all season long. But on Thursday night, those buttons were simply broken. And now so is the season.
Photo credit: Dennis Nett/ Post-Standard
What does it say, just ten days removed from Opening Day and the Mets and Yankees in the middle of yet another soap operatic Spring Training (Jose Reyes’ thyroid much?), SU lands the back page of the New York Daily News.
We have a feeling that image of Andy Rautin’s head-in-hands will become one of the defining images in SU hoops history.
New Yorkers will step onto the subway platform, open up the paper and see this. Grrrrreat.
Syracuse: Truly New York’s College Team (when it’s upset by the five-seed in the Sweet 16).
As an Orange fan, today might be even more difficult than last night. Shortly after the game, the emotions started to hit like a baseball bat to the face.
However, today you’ll have to go into work or class (or the kitchen where you’re mom is asking why you still don’t have a job) and face the generic conversation pieces:
“Wow, tough one for the Orangemen huh?” (Thanks Grandpa, but they changed the name five years ago)
“Hey man, I feel for you. My brackets busted too!” (This person deserves a swift punch to the teeth)
“I really felt like they were gonna make a comeback there.” (Yeah, uh, me too.)
Today you’ll have no idea what to do with yourself.
There are so many questions and relatively few answers. Why did Rick played such an off game? Why was the defense was so tuned out? Why did the team turn the ball over so many times?
There’s still the debate whether this team is better than last year’s Sweet 16 squad.
It’s a very bright future for Wes Johnson no matter what happened; once the clock hit zeroes, he became a millionaire.
And probably the most contentious point of the entire season: Was this year a success?
The responses via Facebook and Twitter range from reasonable to outrageous. “It didn’t end how it should have – but thanks Syracuse basketball for the season of a lifetime. Don’t forget how far they’ve come. We’ll be back.”
“There should be no argument on this: the ending was a complete gutshot. Anyone happy with a Sweet Sixteen appearance can go transfer to Cornell.” (I do hear their linguistic skills are top notch.)
“THANKS FOR NOTHING SYRACUSE BASKETBALL. What an utter disappointment of a season.” (Did this person watch any of the other 36 games?)
Today we’ve just gotta roll with the punches.
One of our favorite sportswriters, Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe, is covering the Midwest Regional in St. Louis.
He loves college basketball, calls this perhaps the greatest tournament ever (despite Orange Nation’s thought otherwise) and spoke to the Fizz immediately after the SU loss.
Was he shocked by the Butler win?
“Butler was basically waiting around for Syracuse to throw the ball away. I was waiting for Syracuse to pull itself together. When big plays were needed to be made, they basically were all made by Butler.”
Did the lack of competitive games for SU on the first weekend hurt the Orange in the dogfight against Butler?
“Maybe they didn’t buy it, but I’m sure Boeheim and co. preached them (Butler was the real deal). But God they were awful. They were down ten with Butler not even playing well. Butler made all the key plays.”