Everything went right. Everything. San Diego State was swallowed whole by a Syracuse squad that could do no wrong. It became so silly the Orange bench put their hands over their heads and mocked shock like a horror film. SU shot a ridiculous 55% from beyond the arc, the Aztecs were completely perplexed by the 2-3 zone, and when the dust settled the Orange became the most dangerous double-digit seeds in this tournament.
Where have we heard this before? For some reason SU’s narrative never changes, a near-decade of talented recruits, lackluster ACC play, bubble existence, followed by inspired runs in March. So be it. A 10-seed that dances all the way to the Final Four in ’16. An 11-seed that had to play in the First Four, then rattled off three straight wins to make the Sweet 16, and nearly pulled off an upset of 2-seed Duke. What we saw Friday night has a preface.
With that in mind, just how far can this team go? The good news is this isn’t a one night show, SU has played its best basketball for three weeks, starting with the win over UNC. Two victories to end the season, a blowout of NC State, a nail-biter vs. UVA, and last night. West Virginia is a problematic matchup because of Bob Huggins’ familiarity with the zone. The Mountaineers will know how to attack the 2-3, unlike the Aztecs who looked like a group of guys lost at the wrong bus stop. But if Buddy Boeheim shoots like he did against SDSU, it won’t matter. What we’ve seen in the last two weeks is a player capable of carrying an entire team to dreamland, much like Gerry McNamara in his epic Big East Tournament. Buddy shot 11-15 from the field, a bonkers 7-10 from three, and finished with 30 points. If this is the zone Buddy is locked into, look out everyone.
Unfortunately, they can’t all be laughers like that. And WVU is a much better, deeper, tougher team than the Aztecs. But a win Sunday would put the Orange up against Rutgers or Houston, and neither one of those teams is certainly unbeatable. Can SU fans allow themselves to dream? After last night, you’d be silly not to.