Syracuse Fans Are Facing An Elite Problem

First, there was the media backlash against Syracuse's rise to No. 1.

Then there was the Syracuse fan backlash to that backlash.

Then there was a second wave of targeted media backlash that tried to prove the initial backlash.

Then there was a second wave of Syracuse fan backlash on that second wave of media backlash.

Now there's a Syracuse fan backlash against the Syracuse fan backlash of the media backlash which followed the initial Syracuse fan backlash to the initial media backlash.

Deep breath.

I can absolutely understand how tired everyone is of hearing Syracuse Orange fans complain about the lack of respect (or perceived respect) that we're receiving despite being 20-0 and the No. 1 team in the nation for six-straight weeks.

There have been two great pieces written on this site trying to get to the heart of why SU fans get so easily riled up over the generic arguments made by people who have probably watched a grand total of 30 minutes of Syracuse basketball all season.

VotePrime's piece on how Syracuse fans are not equipped mentally to deal with success really seemed to hit home. I can speak from experience on that. Despite our record, ranking and everything I've seen all season long, there's still a part of me that expects us to get blown out by thirty points and exposed as frauds every time the team takes the court. Once the game is underway that feeling fades away but beforehand, well, there's a reason I don't make too many predictions.

The other piece was I miss DIAP!'s Why We Complain article, which touches on some of the same points and then goes to look at the situation as objectively as possible, coming to the conclusion that our detractors are who we think they are. If all they do is look at boxscores, schedules and RPI rankings, then yes, we don't look all that amazing. But anyone who's actually watched the games knows better.

I've been thinking about this whole thing since last night and why we (including myself) get so fired up when Hubert Davis complains about our lack of a go-to guy and then, following our big win led by four different go-to guys, claims Missouri and not Syracuse is the most tournament-ready team in the land. Who the hell is Hubert Davis, anyway?

It all came together for me when, following Dick Vitale's comments during the Kansas-Baylor game that Syracuse would not be beaten during the regular season, Andy Glockner tweeted the following:

I wonder if Dickie V thinks Syracuse will get past the Sweet 16 for the third time since 1990.

My initial thought was, "What the f***? Was that necessary?"

My second thought was, "See, this is why Syracuse fans get riled up. Because people will use any excuse to take random shots at us cause, for some reason, they just don't like us. And then when we call them on it, we're the ***holes because we bite on their #TrollHard move. I bet North Carolina and Duke never gets all this grief when they're No. 1."

My third thought was, "Crap...he's right."

Syracuse basketball, and its fanbase, has an elite problem. We think we are and, the honest truth is, we're technically not. Yet.

If you were just looking at the last four seasons, including this one, you could make a pretty easy case that Syracuse is an elite basketball program. Two separate No. 1 rankings. An NCAA Tournament one-seed. Two trips to the Sweet Sixteen. Almost the entire four-year span ranked and ranked high.

There's only a handful of programs that also sustained such standards during the same span. However, it's everything that happened before that which presents our dilemma.

Statistically-speaking, Glockner is right. For all of the great things Jim Boeheim has accomplished, there is a lot of NCAA Tournament dead space in between those Final Four runs. After the Orange went to the National Title game in 1987 and the Elite 8 in 1989, they didn't make it past the Sweet Sixteen again until 1996. And then again until 2003. And not since.

It's true that when we do make it that far, we make it count (Three Final Fours and a National Championship under Boeheim), but that reputation lingers. And if you discount the 2003 National Title, the 00's weren't exactly a banner decade as a whole for Boeheim. Three NIT berths, 2 NCAA 1st round exits, 2 NCAA 2nd round exits and 3 Sweet Sixteens.

Yes, 95% of the programs out there would kill for those results but we don't want to be just better than 95% of the other programs out there. We want to better than 99%. We want to be The One Percent.

We feel as though Syracuse is among the five best college basketball programs in the nation, year in and year out. And we should be treated as such.

And that's just not happening. Because a lot of people in the media are still holding on to that old patterning (Syracuse plays weak schedule, Syracuse fattens up on cupcakes, Syracuse won't do anything in the tournament). And whether we admit it or not, all of that stuff is swirling around in our heads as well.

We're terrified that it's true. We're scared out of our minds that Syracuse is going to finish the regular season undefeated and then lose in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

And so when Doug Gottlieb or Pat Forde or whoever else drops a snipe remark about the 2011-2012 Syracuse Orange basketball team, they're not attacking this singular team. They're attacking the entire history, tradition and reputation of Syracuse basketball. At least to us as fans. They're reinforcing that, at the end of the day, Syracuse can dress up like an elite program all they like but we're still a pretender. A second-tier program.

The only people who can change this are the coaches and players. We as fans are helpless in this battle. All we can do is stick to our guns, be there to cheer on our team and sense for ourselves that this isn't your father's Syracuse basketball program. It's not even your older sibling's Syracuse basketball program. If this team does what we think they're capable of, there will be no denying that Syracuse is an elite program, worthy of it's place among the very best.

Maybe it won't prove anything to them. But it might just prove something to ourselves.

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