Now the real fun begins. The first 30-win regular season in school history was amazing. A Big East record 17 conference wins is impressive. The only other SU team with a perfect home record was the Title Kids of ’03. But none of these stunning numbers will mean a thing if SU is not 30,000 feet above the ground on its way down to the Big Easy in a few weeks.
The way this team manhandled Louisville 58-49 in front of nearly 34k inside the Dome was the perfect culmination of a dominant regular season. But it also underscored how good the Orange is, and that anything less than a Final Four berth would be a failure. The phrase is definitely overused, but in a year where Syracuse and Kentucky are clearly superior programs, it’s how this team will be defined.
First up is the Big East tournament. Ultimately it means nothing. As lomg as SU does enough to secure a 1-seed in the Boston region, getting knocked out of the BET next week would not be the worst thing. While UConn and Kemba Walker used MSG to springboard to a title last year, New York can brutalize a team before March Madness. Kris Joseph spoke to The Fizz about the big picture.
“The Big East tournament is definitely important to use. We want to definitely bring that back to Syracuse, but at the end of the day, March is the big dance. That is what we are preparing for.”
This SU team has an incredible focus all season. The Orange never let the Bernie Fine scandal in November knock it off course. The academic ineligibility of their Brazilian shot-blocking machine didn’t send SU spiraling. Scoop Jardine and K-Jo wouldn’t even let the Senior Day festivities overwhelm their tournament mindsets. “Nothing much,” Joseph answered when asked about what was going through his mind when he left the Carrier Dome floor for the last time. “The thought of it being my last game in the Dome never crossed my mind.”
It’s because this team simply didn’t care about the distractions or hype. SU knows it is poised for a deep NCAA tournament run, and that will trump everything. This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning. Scoop echoed that sentiment to The Fizz.
“We got the win. I’d rather go out like I did today, having 0 points in a big win, against a Louisville team that we hardly beat throughout my years, instead of having 30 points in a loss.”
It’s difficult to find many teams that matchup well against the Orange. Anything can happen, but besides Kentucky it looks like SU is in a league of its own. Who can match the senior leadership? What opponent match the depth? Who can keep up with the up-tempo style of play?
The most reassuring factor for Syracuse is the ability to win tight games down the stretch. SU never looks uncomfortable or panicked. Against a top 20 Cardinals team that has had SU’s number in the Pitino Era, Syracuse swiflty backhanded another inferior opponent. This year is the time for Syracuse to get Jim Boeheim’s 4th Final Four, and it couldn’t be in any better shape to do so.
Posted: Kevin Fitzgerald