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Ranking Syracuse’s Most Improbable Conference Tournament Title Runs

Big East Tournament

Syracuse basketball could really use an ACC Tournament title right now. It’s arguably the only way the Orange can make it to the NCAA Tournament this year. If SU could pull off a run like that, it would likely be one of the program’s best ever. Let’s rank Syracuse’s five conference championships from least to most surprising.

5. 1988

In Syracuse’s second Big East title win, the Orange had a pretty easy path. With the #2 seed in the tournament, SU got to face #7 Boston College, #6 Seton Hall, and #4 Villanova. The hardest opponents were avoided, which is the main reason why the Orange’s average margin of victory in the bracket was 12 points. 

Sherman Douglas, the tournament MVP, was unstoppable. This was a great Big East title, but it wasn’t all that surprising.

4. 2005

Syracuse was one of the best teams in the country entering the tournament, with a 24-6 record entering the postseason. The third-seeded Orange cruised to wins over #11 Rutgers and #8 West Virginia and the first and championship rounds, respectively. SU’s biggest challenge was against UConn in the semifinals, but other than that, it was smooth sailing. 2005 was another pretty predictable run.

3. 1992

This is the point in the rankings where the title runs become pretty surprising. Syracuse was the #5 seed, and had an absolute gauntlet of a path. SU had to take on #4 Villanova, #1 Seton Hall, and #2 Georgetown. The Orange won all of those games, but their largest victory was by just four points. If one or two plays change, Syracuse could have been a first round exit, not the Big East Champion.

One extra note: Lawrence Moten was completely snubbed for tournament MVP. Instead, it went to Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning. Yes, a player from the losing team.

2. 1981

In just the second ever Big East Tournament, the Orange weren’t in great shape at the end of the regular season. SU was 15-11, including a 6-8 conference record. That was only good for the #6 seed. Syracuse was especially cold at the end of the year, going 1-4 in its final five games before the tournament.

However, the Orange came alive in their title run. Leo Rautins, the tournament MVP, led Syracuse to wins over #3 St. John’s, #2 Georgetown, and #4 Villanova. That championship game was in triple-overtime, by the way.

The only factor that made the 1981 run less improbable was the host side: the Carrier Dome. The home crowd certainly propelled the Orange in key moments.

1. 2006

There’s not much to be said about the 2006 Big East Tournament that hasn’t been said already. Simply put, Syracuse looked magical on the court. Buzzer-beater after buzzer-beater, comeback after comeback, Gerry McNamera willed the Orange to four phenomenal wins. SU actually became the first Big East Champion to have played in four rounds, given that the #9 ‘Cuse didn’t earn a bye. Nothing will ever top 2006.

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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.


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