Orange Fizz


Ranking Syracuse Basketball’s Leap Day Performances

Leap Day

Dating back to the birth of the program in 1900, Syracuse men’s basketball has played 10 games on February 29th, also known as Leap Day. Yes, we checked that far back. The Orange hold an even 5-5 record in those games. The main theme? Low-scoring games. Let’s rank those performances from worst to best.

10. 1936: Niagara 34, Syracuse 30

Just an absolutely putrid performance from the Orange. While this was a completely different era of basketball, 30 points is still awful. It was SU’s second-lowest offensive output of the season.

9. 2020: North Carolina 92, Syracuse 79

This result is so much worse when you remember that in 2020, UNC was bad. The Tar Heels’ record was 11-17 headed into this game. 

To add insult to injury, John Wallace’s jersey was retired that day, plus Jimmy Fallon and Julian Edelman were in the crowd. Plus, walk-on Shaun Belbey didn’t get a win on his senior night.

The lone bright spot in this loss was Bourama Sidibe scoring 17 points, one shy of his career high.

8. 1980: Georgetown 87, Syracuse 81

Losing to Georgetown in the Big East Tournament final? That’s rough. While it was a close game, it was a loss to John Thompson nonetheless.

At least it happened in Providence and not Madison Square Garden, right?

7. 2016: North Carolina 75, Syracuse 70

This is a much less embarrassing loss to UNC. The Tar Heels were the number 8 team in the country at the time. Plus, SU would rebound from the loss, reaching the Final Four as a 10-seed, where it would again lose to North Carolina. This wasn’t a terrible defeat at all.

6. 1956: Canisius 76, Syracuse 73

This looks really bad at first glance. Isn’t a loss to Canisius a worse performance than a loss to a good Georgetown team? 

No, no it isn’t.

The ‘56 Golden Griffins were a darn good team. They made the NIT Regional Finals in an era when the NIT was no joke. Plus, Canisius was a star-studded team, led by All-American point guard Johnny McCarthy. 

For what it’s worth, McCarthy would go on to win the 1964 NBA Finals with the Boston Celtics. He also tallied a triple-double in his playoff debut. The only other players to accomplish that feat are Magic Johnson, LeBron James, and Nikola Jokic.

Losing to McCarthy and the Griffins by just three points is a solid output by the Orange.

5. 1916: Syracuse 31, Dartmouth 16

A win is a win, so this beats out some losses to good opponents. However, it wasn’t a super impressive outing for SU, beating a Dartmouth squad that would finish the season just 3-10.

4. 1964: Syracuse 81, Canisius 64

This is by far the worst Golden Griffins team that the Orange have played on Leap Day. Canisius was 10-14 that season. This game would have gotten a boost based purely on intrigue if Jim Boeheim played in it, but he was just on the freshman team that year.

3. 1992: Syracuse 68, Miami 63

This was an ugly, ugly game. Four total players fouled out, two per team, including Adrian Autry. Syracuse’s Lawrence Moten did put up an efficient 20 points, but the rest of the Orange shot under 50% from the field. Plus, Miami finished the season 8-24, all the way in the depths of the old Big East.

2. 1984: Syracuse 68, Canisius 64

What is it with Canisius and Leap Day? The third matchup was definitely the best for the Orange. 

The Golden Griffins were 19-11 that year, and had a future two-time NBA champion on the roster, Mike Smrek. The center is arguably the best big in Canisius history, ranking second in blocks. His 1983-84 season was particularly impressive, shooting a program record 63% from the field.

Against Syracuse, Smrek put up a solid 15 points, but was held to 5 rebounds. More importantly, SU found a way to win, despite Pearl Washington having just 5 points.

1. 2004: Syracuse 49, Pittsburgh 46

An unranked SU team beating the number 3 team in the country in overtime is phenomenal. Add in the fact that it was a low-scoring, ugly, classic Big East battle, and it’s an all-time game.

This was the first game Pittsburgh ever lost in the Petersen Events Center, which opened a year prior. Plus, the Panthers didn’t have any double-figure scorers. It was defensive domination for Syracuse, and that turned into a monumental win.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


Copyright © 2022 Orange Fizz

To Top