They did it again. The Cardiac Orange pulled another rabbit out of the hat, this time on a last-second buzzer beater by Tyus Battle that took a two-point loss on the road and turned it into a one-point win over Clemson. Syracuse has now pulled the trick so many times in the last two weeks, it’s time to start asking if this team actually has the guts and talent to make a deep run in March. Who could’ve imagined saying that two weeks ago?
The ugly losses to UConn, Georgetown and St. John’s stained the early part of the season, and had us all wondering if this squad would be NIT-bound, perhaps the biggest disaster in Jim Boeheim’s storied tenure. The losses to South Carolina and Wisconsin seemed to simply underscore the fact, this team was simply not good enough to beat any decent teams – especially come tourney time.
But starting with the win over Wake Forest, the Orange has seemed to find itself. The offense is clicking, the shooters are shooting (well), and the zone is doing enough. The most amazing part is Boeheim’s preseason suggestion that this could be one of his most talented teams, which was a subject of ridicule and mockery, now appears to be true.
John Gillon’s 43 points in the wild OT game against NC State. Andrew White’s 24 points against #6 FSU. Tyus Battle and White stepping up against #9 UVA. And now the arcing prayer that was answered from Battle to knock off Clemson and stunning the Tigers crowd. It was the perfect set up last night: White bringing it up, Tyler Lydon driving and then providing the perfect kick out, Battle not hesitating on pulling the trigger.
SU has now knocked off 5 straight foes to jump right back into the projected Field of 68 conversation, and has chances against Duke and Louisville (twice) to add big to that resume. On top of it, one of the deepest ACC fields ever will await them in Brooklyn for the tourney. And an East Regional at MSG?
Four of Boeheim’s previous Final Fours (’87, ’96, ’03, ’13) all had signs of greatness coming into the season or early on, and while last year’s run to the final weekend was probably the most unexpected, did we ever feel as down on them as we did this year’s squad as of late January? If SU somehow turns this pile of steaming doggie doo that was 11-9 (3-4 in the ACC) after lethargic losses to UNC and ND, and makes it into the Sweet 16 or Elite 8, it may just be the most shocking turnaround in program history. It went from nightmare to daydream in two weeks. Do we ever have to wake up?