Now that it's all over and we've had a couple days to take it all in, it's time to start forming dangerously-uninformed opinions on the end of the 2011-2012 Syracuse Orange basketball season and "what it all means."
I reached out to some of the folks who write for TNIAAM with a couple questions, here's what they and I had to say:
If there is one thing you can point to as the reason Syracuse didn't win the Ohio State game, what would it be?
Dan Lyons: While you can blame the game on the referees, and it is naive to say they didn't have some bearing on the outcome, if we finished at the rim we probably win that game. We had at least six or seven blown layups, and that is not something that a team can have if they expect to beat a team like Ohio State.
Jeremy Ryan: It would be easy to blame the refs, but the foul calls went both ways. SU's inability to consistently get easy shots was a major factor in their loss. Without a dominant post presence, SU relies on guard penetration to get open looks near the rim. SU's guards played right into Ohio State's hands when they settled for contested jump shots.
John Cassillo: Syracuse's failure to execute when given ample opportunities to do so. Believe me, we're all pissed about the officiating, but it doesn't change the countless unforced errors and missed layups that were our fault alone. Convert on even two of those missed opportunities and we're probably discussing a different result right now.
Matt Glaude: Syracuse didn't score more than Ohio State? Seems like the biggest reason, as is inherent in the game of basketball. Other than that, not building out any kind of cushion with Sullinger on the bench for the majority of the first half with two fouls. The corollary to that is that Syracuse putting Ohio State into the bonus early eroded that possibility.
Adam Gerard: Missed easy shots. All season when this team had a fast break I knew it was a guaranteed basket. Saturday night that was not the case. Throw in a few missed bank shots around the basket and that's your 7+ points that would have been the difference. Sure, the refs sucked and blew their whistles way too often. Yes, Fab Melo might have made it a different game. But that's not why we lost. We lost because the team missed a bunch of easy baskets. When you're in the Elite 8 and you have an uncontested shot around the basket, you need to get those 2 points every time.
Shari Lindars: Something to do with our problems in the middle. Every time that ball was passed inside to an Ohio State player, I knew it was going in. Every time we had it inside, I knew either we'd have trouble getting a shot up or it would teeter on the rim and fall out. Is the problem rebounding, blocking, shot selection...I don't know. But I know it was close to the hoop.
Matt McClusky: It's easy to answer, 'because the officials were either blind or paid off, or both.' But I'm not one to throw an entire game away due to bad officiating (although it was God awful), so I'll say the combination of Dion Waiters and Kris Joseph being off led to the loss for the Orange. On offense Joseph looked like an old man at times while Waiters just couldn't finish at the rim like he had been doing for the majority of the season.
Sean Keeley: Not making shots, plain and simple. The Orange should have been up 7-8 points at halftime and the fact that the game was tied showed just how much SU was missing its opportunities. They were never able to make up for that. SU was plagued by stretches of poor shooting all season and this time there was no late 17-1 run to make up for it all.
Syracuse ending it's season in the Elite 8 makes it a successful, fulfilling, disappointing or demoralizing way to end the year? (Feel free to mix and match)
DL: Any season that doesn't conclude with a national championship is disappointing at the end, but overall this was a successful season. We won 34 games (!), we had the best Big East record of all time, we overcame more adversity than just about every team ever, we got past the Sweet 16 which is a major hurdle for our program, and we were a few plays away from knocking off Ohio State to go to the final four. We're not a program that goes to the Final Four every year, we've only been to three, and only five elite eights, so while we strive to be an elite program, we still have steps we need to take before a final four is the expectation every year.
JR: Theoretically, a team that spends the vast majority of the season ranked in the top two nationally should be disappointed if it doesn't make it to the Final Four. That said, with everything the team went through off the court they should be proud of how the season ultimately turned out.
JC: At one point, getting to the Elite 8 without Fab appeared to be a success, but given how we beat ourselves against Ohio State, I'm going with "disappointing." It's just hard to watch your team perform below what they're capable of, and even without Fab, this was a really special group for Syracuse.
MG: I know I'm in the minority on this, but the NCAA's are a single-elimination tournament; weird, sometimes terrible, stuff happens. So, I'd deem the season a success, even if Syracuse didn't make the Final Four. It's not like losing to Ohio State is akin to driving a bus into a ravine with nary a survivor. I think people forget that the Buckeyes were trying to win, too.
AG: I was surprised by how quickly I was at peace with this loss. I guess maybe deep down inside I always felt this team was over achieving a bit. Combine that with us finally getting over our Sweet 16 hump and I felt pretty good about the season, even after such a frustrating loss. 10 years from now I could have remembered this season as one full of controversy, off-court issues and a lot of frustration. Instead, I will be able to look back with a lot of happiness: Syracuse spent a bunch of weeks at #1. Scoop showed he is a leader and a great college basketball guard. The team earned a #1 seed and proved they deserved it. It was a fulfilling season.
SL: Before the tournament, I would have classified it as disappointing not making the Final Four. But now that I can look back at the games we played and where we finally faltered, I'm satisfied (is that an acceptable word?) with our performance in the tournament. The team always had that deep roster working together and different players stepped up each game. We hoped that chemistry would have taken us farther, but the teams with the good chemistry are memorable no matter how far they go.
MM: Without any question this entire year was a maddening success! 34 wins in 37 games, a return trip to the Elite Eight, No. 1 in the country and another No. 1 seed. We'll, as fans, never forget this season of close games, huge wins, and crazy 'scandals.' It'll be nice to go a few months without hearing sex abuse scandal, drug test scandal, or suspensions. Could Syracuse have won it all this year, even without Melo? Yes. Even so, this season was the epitome of why we watch, both the good and bad. Really, this season left me exhausted as a fan.
SK: The season was successful but it ended with disappointment. I can't not feel disappointed by knowing this team fell short of the Final Four. It's hard to "expect" things in college basketball because the NCAA Tournament can be such a crapshoot, but even without Fab Melo I thought this team still had it in them to make it to the Final Four and possibly further. But just because I'm disappointed by the loss, that doesn't mean I'm disappointed in the season, which was one of the most thrilling and exciting ever.
Who are you rooting for to win the National Title now? And you have to pick someone...
DL: Really, for me, it's anyone but Kentucky, but if I had to choose one team it'd probably be Louisville. I don't hate them as much as others do, and I'm still getting over my sense of Big East kinship.
JR: 1) I can't root for Kentucky because I was at SU in 1996 when they lost to the Wildcats in the National Championship game. 2) I have never been one to pull for a conference rival under the guise of league unity or anything like that. Plus, Rick Pitino coaches Louisville. See #1 above. So that eliminates the Cardinals. 3) I also don't believe in the whole "If the team that beat my team wins it all, it makes my team look better" thing. If someone beats SU, I hope they go down in flames. So that leaves out Ohio State. 4) I guess that leaves Kansas, huh?
JC: I'd root for the whole thing not happening, obviously. But if I had to pick someone, I'm probably pulling for Louisville. Not only would that mean Kentucky was beaten before the title game, but we'd have also defeated the champs twice. I don't have a problem with rooting for a conference-mate here (rather than against), since we'll be headed for the Big East exit doors soon enough.
MG: Louisville, mostly because they haven't won a national title in forever. The other reason is that I want to see Lexington burn on Saturday night.
AG: I was under the impression March Madness was over with. There's still games going on? Big East or not, I can't bring myself to cheer for Rick Pitino. I'm angry with Ohio State. Kentucky is too inevitable to root for. I've got nothing against Kansas. By process of elimination, I guess it's Kansas. "Rock chalk," or something like that...
SL: Uh, I think I smell a dirty diaper. Be back in a minute. (Ed. Note - That was Calipari walking by). If forced, I will stick with my Big East loyalties for one final year, but I can't even say the name of the team.
MM: This is always a tough question. Usually when Syracuse gets the boot from the Big Dance I'll root for a Big East team. If a Big East team isn't left (or only Georgetown or Connecticut is left) I go for the underdog. With no true underdog playing I should be rooting for the Cardinals. I just can't though. With Syracuse heading to the ACC, rooting for the Big East has lost something. We're in No Man's Land for the next year, and even though I basically grew up watching the formation and then domination of the Big East, it's just not the same. Now, if Providence or St. John's somehow were still playing (all but impossible, I know), maybe I would still feel something for the conference, but for this weekend, I'm just against Calipari.
SK: Between Ohio State and Kansas, I give the nod to Ohio State only because they beat us and I'd rather the team that knocked us out make it to the title game. Plus, I hate Kansas. Between Louisville and Kentucky, I'm definitely pulling for the Cardinals. Pitino-aside, I want to see UK fall on their face. And then I guess I'll take the least of all evils, Louisville, to win it all. At least we'll be able to say we beat the National Champ twice this year.
Part II later today...