The Fizz Four buzzer-beater series ends with a shot that is more than just a miraculous play, more than just a program-defining moment. The best buzzer-beater in Syracuse history is also one of the most crucial in college basketball history.
1. The Pearl of the Big East, 1984
The Big East in its adolescent years struggled to become a household brand. There had to be a reason for fans to tune in to their games rather than more established conferences. By the mid-1980s, there were three reasons. Chris Mullin (St. John’s), Patrick Ewing (Georgetown) and Dwayne “The Pearl” Washington (Syracuse). These three are commonly referred to as the founding fathers of the Big East.
When The Pearl buried a half-court heave at the buzzer against No. 16 Boston College to snap a 73-73 tie, the Dome, of course, went into a frenzy.
ESPN was pretty new as well, and also gaining popularity. The power of the highlight was irreplicable. Fans storming the floor, and Washington stoically sprinting into the locker room were priceless images for a budding conference that could point to that highlight in 1984 to prove its worth as a conference to be reckoned with on the national stage. That’s what people wanted to see. Fundamental basketball and physical competition wasn’t enough to entice a national fanbase.
The nostalgic impact was, of course, not felt at the time. But Syracuse fans were still able to appreciate it before Pearl even escaped to the locker room. Syracuse had entered Washington’s freshman year unranked. The Orangemen entered the top 20 the week after the buzzer-beater, and remained there for the rest of his SU career.
Dissecting the shot would minimize its value. On paper, it’s a halfcourt shot that today’s Syracuse fans have seen countless times, and have even replicated in the backyard. Elijah Hughes’ buzzer-beater against Duke was much more difficult. But the Pearl helped put Syracuse and the Big East on the map. Even in the ACC, the Orange are still reaping the benefits of Washington’s shot, which set their entire history in motion.