Selection Sunday luckily had no surprises in store for Jim Boeheim and the Orange, as SU predictably received the one-seed in Boston’s East region and will begin in Pittsburgh against UNC Asheville. The Fizz was on hand when coaches and players reacted to the Orange draw in the bracket.
Boeheim, coming off maybe his greatest coaching job ever,¬†was his typical stoic self and seemed content with Syracuse’s draw. He was extremely complimentary of the other teams in the region and had a quick answer for which teams stood out in the East:
‚ÄúYeah, they all do.‚Äù
Boeheim went on to compliment nearly every team in the East, making special note of a few including FSU and Vandy. Boeheim also commented on the impact of regular season accomplishments.
‚ÄúThe success of this team in the regular season is probably a little underrated, under appreciated. They really battled hard there was a lot of games they could have lost, but didn‚Äôt lose and I think they deserve an awful lot of credit for the year they had. It‚Äôs been an amazing year.‚Äù
Absolutely true, although everyone knows after recent tournament failures this team will be judged on its performance in the Big Dance. Another early exit would certainly dampen what may have been Boeheim‚Äôs greatest regular season. The Per’fesser also subtly acknowledged that¬†the loss to Cincy in the Big East semis¬†wasn‚Äôt the worst thing, and perhaps could serve as an important teaching tool.
C.J. Fair didn‚Äôt want to hear about any benefits of the loss Friday night¬†saying,¬†‚ÄúWe‚Äôve already moved past that.‚Äù
Like the rest of the team, C.J. knew nothing about first round opponent UNC Asheville. Dion Waiters echoed that.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know nothing about them. I tried to ask Scoop. I don‚Äôt know nothing about them and I‚Äôve never heard of them, so team like that you never know what you gonna get until you play them. So I think most important, we gotta be ready.‚Äù
Dion also thought the bracket shook out in Syracuse‚Äôs favor, and believes his swagger and love of the bright lights will help him in the tourney. Dion has played three of his best games against Marquette in the NCAA Tournament last year and on Thursday and Friday at MSG. He clearly likes March’s stage.
Scoop talked about the thrill of seeing the Orange as a 1-seed despite having been there before.
‚ÄúYeah, it‚Äôs exciting. Because you work hard all year long for this and it‚Äôs a special moment for our team. You always wanna see your name called in the NCAA Tournament and we worked all year long to get a number-one seed and we got it. But now it starts over, we 0 and 0. We gotta try to win 6 games.‚Äù
Scoop echoes the sentiment of most SU fans, and clearly understands despite the great regular season, the tournament is where it counts most. Senior leaders Jardine and Kris Joseph also seemed very loose, smiling and laughing throughout the press conference.
One of Syracuse’s biggest difference makers over the next three weeks will be Fab Melo. The Brazilian big man noted how different his role is from last year.
‚ÄúThe difference is I‚Äôm more comfortable, I‚Äôm in better shape. I feel like I‚Äôm helping the team, and that‚Äôs something I didn‚Äôt do last year.‚Äù
The team seemed relaxed and confident heading into the tournament despite coming off the Big East Tournament loss. While the impressive regular season will certainly be remembered, the true legacy of this team will be made in March. On Sunday night it seemed everyone in SU’s locker room embraced that reality.
Posted: Alex Plavin