Sure, we can look at Jimmy V and the NC State team in 1983, or maybe a Cinderella Villanova team that won the whole thing in 1985. But this year’s Syracuse team is by far the most surprising and improbable Final Four team ever.
Forget for a second about the Orange losing 5 of 6 down the stretch. Forget about the Orange losing not once, not twice, but three times to Pittsburgh, a team only marginally better than Syracuse, and one that got bounced in the first round of the Tournament. You can even forget about the early season loss to St. John’s, who would lose its next 16 games, and beat only lowly DePaul before finishing the year with four more losses. You can forget about the Georgetown loss, that didn’t look quite so terrible at the time, but then the Hoya lost to Monmouth and UNC Asheville in the next week.
So even throwing all those losses out, this run was improbable, but why? Well it’s simple. The Orange was missing its coach for 9 games. Jim Boeheim was not just suspended for nearly a quarter of the season, he was banished. Not only could he not coach in games, he couldn’t go to practice, he couldn’t go to his office in the Melo Center, he couldn’t even speak to his players or assistant coaches. Oh, and of course he became a piñata for talking heads and critics all around the country.
Boeheim was thrown aside by the NCAA on a moments notice, being told just after the Wisconsin game that that would be his last for a month.
Of course there was a bit of a resurgence in the month following when Boeheim made his way back to the sidelines, we shouldn’t have expected any less from a Hall of Fame head coach. The players came to be on his team after all.
So when you think about the absurdity of a coach being told on a moments notice he isn’t coaching again for another month, and he can have no contact whatsoever with his team, and he can’t be in the office. Then you add in that the Orange started 0-4 in conference, something no other Final Four team had ever done. Oh, and they lost to St. John’s. ST. JOHN’S!! That got Doug Gottlieb to say this, “They lost to St.John’s. No team should be in this NCAA Tournament that lost to St.John’s this year.” And look, say what you want about Gottlieb, but that statement shows just how bad St. John’s was this year. Also, add in that the Orange went 1-5 in its final 6, including a second and third loss to Pitt on the season.
Posted By: Seth Goldberg
Factor in everything, and the idea that the Orange was thought to be a team on the wrong side of the bubble by most bracket prognosticators, and you get what is likely to be the most improbable run that we have ever seen to the Final Four.