If Syracuse is left out of the NCAA Tournament tomorrow, will this season be a success? Not in most people’s eyes. This was a team coming off a Final Four berth last season, and Jim Boeheim openly glowed over the potential of this year’s squad. While midway through the season it looked impossible for the Orange to even make the Field of 68, the reality is SU may just find itself there now because of some decent work done in league play. But if it’s NIT-bound Sunday night, this season can’t be considered a success.
The most indelible moment of the year will definitely be John Gillon’s bank shot to beat Duke at the buzzer. It was an electric night at the Carrier Dome, and some compared it to Pearl’s iconic heave at the buzzer more than three decades ago. It also seemed to be the capper on the Orange resume to get to the Big Dance. It was a third Top 10 win, and another important ACC victory.
But it also clouded the vision of just how awful the early part of the season was. Looking back. the losses to UConn and Georgetown really look bad. But losing in blowout fashion to St. John’s and Boston College was even worse. The damage had been done early in the season, and even had the Orange been 2-2 in those four games instead of winless SU would be comfortably in the tourney right now.
Because of the expectations, and just how brutal the early losses were, unless SU makes the Field of 68 this year will be a disappointment. The wins over UVA, Duke and FSU are nice. Ten wins in a tough ACC is nothing to be ashamed of. But this team had far too much talent to be left outside, and it may very well find itself there.