Syracuse Basketball: Ignorance Is Bliss?

USA TODAY Sports

The Orange earn another Sweet 16 appearance. Not that anyone seems to notice.

Start everything you write with something catchy, kids.

And right now, there's probably nothing more catchy than this:


Who can't get enough of that? Well, besides Georgetown fans and the two or three San Diego State fans.

That's 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Brash, bold, and absolutely fun to watch -- from their antics to their alley-oops. I know it's a team that lost to Lipscomb and it's a little school from a little conference, but, good God, how did it take this long for that team to get some attention? Plus, brackets be damned, FGCU took down the Hoyas.

FGCU has captured...oh hell, here's one more! And this is just warm ups:


<Faints>

OK, so, as I was saying, FGCU has captured just about everyone's imagination with creative plays, unbridled athleticism (or athletAHicism for Charles and Kenny), and an Animal House mentality. It's a team getting a lot of attention, all rightfully so too. Everything about that team seems like cheese to the national media's mouse.

But it's not just Florida Slamma Jamma that's taken the spotlight. The Midwest region is a killer and has all eyes on it -- what with Louisville, Duke, Michigan State, and red-hot Oregon all advancing. You've also got Blue Bloods like Ohio State and Indiana still playing basketball. Wichita State is 40 minutes from the Elite Eight! And their opponent, LaSalle, is getting some long overdue pub, too.

All eyes on just about everyone else not wearing a Syracuse Orange jersey.


From Grantland to Deadspin to a blip for Yahoo - stories on the tourney all but forgetting Syracuse exists. And it's not just those media outlets. Look around, the Syracuse Orange are an afterthought across the nation.

Which is crazy when you think of what SU has done in the last couple of weeks. Beating a couple of top 25 teams, then taking Louisville to the brink before running out of gas ("running out of gas" is the lipstick on the pig that is losing by 17 after leading by 16), and winning a "second round" game in the NCAA tournament by 47 points -- a record in terms of seeding. SU then followed that up by holding its "third round" opponent to 19% shooting from three-point range. In that same game, the Orange shutdown the Pac-12 Player of the Year -- to the point that Allan Crabbe looked and sounded like a man waking from a coma after the game.

Not only that, but this Sweet 16 will be the fourth in five years. Jim Boeheim, already a Hall of Fame inductee, raked up career tourney victory number fifty Saturday night. But still, the Orange are a collective "Bizzaro The Most Interesting Man in the World." No one seems interested, at all.

Why? Well...

It could be that Jim Boeheim is especially crabby, or it could be the "NCAA investigating major and wide-ranging rules infractions" narrative gets in the way of covering a good team for some in the media. Maybe SU doesn't have a legit "star" on its roster, or it could be because Syracuse dismantled Montana and California in San Jose under the cover of darkness -- falling victim to the East Coast Bias.

I mean think about this, last Thursday Syracuse played possibly the best game of basketball of any team in the tournament. Offensively, the Orange were patient and the movement was fluid, with 21 assists on 27 baskets. Of course Syracuse's offense was dreadful against the Bears on Saturday night, but, again, SU more than made up for that with sound defense. College basketball across the board, players, teams, officials, has become the definition of ugly and Syracuse survived and advanced the only way it could -- ugly.

And still, we'll be inundated with features on the Eagles, the Explorers, even the Hoosiers. To that end, get ready for a lot of Keith Smart highlights. And by Keith Smart highlights, I mean the only meaningful shot Smart ever hit in his life. But either way, you'll see a lot of New Orleans, 1987, played on loop.

The only storyline that will probably fit this Orange team is one that was finished 26 years ago.

Meanwhile, here's a more Syracuse-centric highlight of SU v. IU:


The General to the Captain! I just about fell out of my chair when Sherman Douglas passed that ball to Stevie Thompson, like a center pitching to a quarterback in shotgun formation -- except the quarterback turned out to be the wide receiver who just happened to be one of the best athletes in the country. But I'm betting you won't see that highlight much this week.

And I'm guessing Syracuse and its fan base likes it like that. In 2003, the nation took months to realize how special that Syracuse team was.

Going back further, remember 1996? SU, a four seed in the West region, was supposed to lose multiple times. Instead, the Orangemen benefited from some upsets, played inspired team-basketball, and eventually crashed the Final Four -- even giving Kentucky a run for its money in the title game.

Who knows, maybe if Syracuse upsets Indiana, the collective basketball world will turn its eyes to Syracuse? To its head coach making another run, to its stifling defense (name be damned), to a pretty interesting team.

Of course, there's plenty to like about not getting all the attention. And it's not like this team hasn't already had a lot of it this season anyway. From James Southerland's suspension, to the "NCAA investigation" report, to the hype and pressure on Michael Carter-Williams. There's also been good "attention" paid. SU has been a top-ten team for the majority of the season, and it does have some big wins (including a huge victory at Louisville).

Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo. Hoosiers, Explorers, Shockers (the team....) and those alley-oops. Syracuse has taken to the backseat. Beat Indiana and that will likely change, assuming some team actually, you know, can stop Florida Freakin' Gulf Coast.

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