My how things have changed in a New York minute for the Orange.
The final Syracuse-Georgetown clash in Big East Tournament history had to end like this. Drama at the end of regulation. Overtime thriller. Chaotic play, questionable calls, big as the city skyline moments. Syracuse survives to advance 58-55 to an improbable Big East Title Game tomorrow night. Who would’ve predicted that four days ago?
But that’s how it happens… in a New York minute. Fortunes rise, seedings fall, all driven by the frenetic energy inside Madison Square Garden. At the start of the week SU looked like a quick exit from Manhattan, relegated to a 5-seed in the NCAA’s, probably with a terrifying 5/12 matchup and a sorrowful, embarrassing end to the season. Now? The Orange is probably a 4-seed, will get some love from the committee in its bracket, and might even rise to a 3-mark with a win tomorrow night.
The biggest reason SU was able to finally knock off the Hoyas? The offense is making far better decisions than the final five games of the season. Michael Carter-Williams was shaky down the stretch vs. the Hoyas, two costly turnovers on mishandling and errant passes. He also badly missed the potential game-winner at the end of regulation. But Brandon Triche was there to pick up the slack. It’s been sweet redemption for Triche, a much maligned senior by the end of last week.
Where was the leadership he and James Southerland were supposed to show? Would they be lumped into the forgettable and disappointing senior classes in SU history? Instead, both have come up huge in the Big Apple. I asked Triche at the podium yesterday if the stage of the Big East Tourney flipped a switch on SU’s play. He talked about the criticism his team was getting after the loss in D.C., and how this was an important few days for his team, the program, and his reputation. He’s risen to the occasion. Southerland has knocked down a bushel of enormous shots. The seniors have acquitted themselves.
The energy inside MSG for Syracuse’s wins over Pitt and G’Town has been incredible. There’s swaths of Orange in every section, chants of “Let’s Go Orange” during most commercial breaks. The sing-song roars usually reserved for the Carrier Dome and better editions of this team have serenaded from the darkened corners as SU has held leads. It makes you wonder if it’s really a smart idea to leave it all behind.
Jim Boeheim has also obviously been energized by this moment. He’s much more engaged on a possession-by-possession basis. He’s stomping, clapping, animated on the sideline. The meaning of this final go ’round has been like an electric surge for the Orange. The arena, the team, the coach are all lit up like the Empire State Building. Pretty perfect.
Syracuse is still dancing, in a perfect story on 33rd Street. Who would’ve thunkit?