Painfully, the Cinderella run came to an end Saturday night, but not before this team did what so few have in program history: Overachieve. Unfortunately, there’s been so many examples of all-too-early exits for SU over the years. The 1989 loss to Illinois in the Elite 8. The ’91 shocking upset at the hands of the 15-seed Richmond Spiders. The crushing defeat to Vermont in ’05. There’s been plenty of heart breaks over the years.
But this year’s squad flipped the script on the same ol’ narrative for SU. Few even expected the Orange to get into the field of 68, let along be playing all the way to Houston. The loss to UNC was tough to swallow, only because it was such a complete domination by the Heels. They controlled the paint, four starters scored in double-digits, and SU’s free throw percentage was terrible. Even being in the Final Four though, was enough to leave the season feeling great as an SU fan.
There’s only been six Final Four teams in Syracuse history, and they’re all remembered fondly.
1975: The only appearance before Jim Boeheim took the reigns, it’s the most forgotten of all the Final Four teams. It was pre-Louie & Bouie, and lost to Kentucky in the Final Four. But helped light the wick on the beginning of a program’s growth as a basketball powerhouse.
1987: One of the greatest teams in program history, it could’ve (should’ve) held a place as dear as the ’03 team. Had Derrick Coleman made his free throws or Keith Smart’s jumper rattles out, SU would have its first title. Instead it’s a reminder of the cruel fate that always seemed to haunt the Orange. But nevertheless, this squad is one of the most beloved in program history.
1996: The most inspirational Final Four squad in SU history. John Wallace will forever hold a special place in program legacy for his single-handed destruction of the brackets. No player carried the Orange on his shoulders like Wallace did (even Melo, who had Warrick and G-Mac to help). An improbable title game appearance, but just not enough firepower to take down one of the greatest teams in college basketball history, the ’96 Kentucky Wildcats with 8 future NBA players.
2003: Still the one and only title team. It changed SU from a program that would never win the big one to a program that did. Carmelo’s place in history is forever cemented because of that run, and even 13 years later, the national title team is as beloved as ever. No one from that team will ever have to buy a drink in CNY again.
2013: An excellent team led by Michael Carter-Williams, the Orange knocked off the 1-seed Indiana in the Sweet 16, and then smothered Marquette in the Elite 8. Unfortunately, it came to an end vs. Michigan in the Final Four. But MCW had only 2 points on 1-6 shooting against the Wolverines, and UM had one of its most talented teams ever. Future NBA players Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Mitch McGary took down the Orange.
2016: The most incredible run in program history, the Orange had never been as low as a ten-seed. The comeback over Virginia will stand as one of the greatest postseason moments in program history. Malachi, Lydon, Roberson and co. will be remembered fondly as a team that probably should’ve never been in the tourney, but never took no as an answer when it mattered most. A disappointing end, but the ’16 squad will have a place forever in SU lore.
Posted: Damon Amendolara