Syracuse vs. Indiana: Let's Win One For Howard

Andy Lyons

In 1987, the Syracuse Orangemen made it to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament, where they fell to the Indiana Hoosiers 74-73 on a last-second jump shot by Keith Smart. Some of us haven't forgotten that day.

Ed. - The TNIAAM crew is in the midst of compiling their memories and thoughts of the 1987 National Championship game between the Syracuse Orange and Indiana Hoosiers. Before we post that, Jeremy's recollection and memory of the game was a bit more visceral that most and deserved it's own post.

I don't throw the word "hate" around a lot. I think it's a strong word, and I think hate is the root of a lot of problems in the world.

But boy did I hate Keith Smart when I was a kid.

I was a couple months shy of 11 years old on March 30, 1987. I had not yet figured out girls, and still probably haven't, but I DID discover basketball and took to it like Keeley to a bad pun. My favorite teams were the Boston Celtics, taken from my grandfather, and the local varsity five from an hour down the Thruway in Syracuse.

I lived and died with every Syracuse game that season, and I died with that Keith Smart jumper over Howard Triche's outstretched arm.

Since the game was 26 years ago, and I was only 10 years old, I can't tell you that I remember every detail. My memories are relegated to the same grainy highlight footage we have all seen over and over again, and will no doubt see ad nauseum this week. But I knew Bob Knight was a big chair-throwing jerk. So was John Thompson. Well, not the chair part. Anyway, I didn't realize that Knight stood about 6'5" and Thompson 6'9", so I thought our coach was a nerdy little dude and the other coaches were normal size. I was only half right.

It took me a while to forgive Triche for not rotating out to Smart sooner, even though it wasn't completely his fault. I know I'm not the only one. Maybe that's why, subconsciously, we project so much angst onto his nephew? Or maybe we just want him to take over a game more than once or twice a season. Either way.

It also took me a while to forgive Derrick Coleman for missing that free throw. But then, as I got older, I learned that Syracuse players never make their free throws, so it was okay. DC was still my favorite player - the guy who wore my favorite number and played my favorite position for my favorite team. Well, at least until Saint John Wallace came along. But I'll save that story until SU plays Kentucky again.

1987 remains the demon that needs to be exorcised. The green stains are still on the carpet. I know that Jim Boeheim is 3-1 lifetime vs. Indiana and Bob Knight, and SU has won all three meetings since 1987. But those were in the regular season. Even after 2003, some of us who remember far enough back know that 1987 is the boogeyman under the bed of SU basketball history. It's the one that got away, the Moby to our Dick. Or something like that. I was never much of a reader. I spent too much time watching basketball.

Even if SU doesn't win the title this year, how great would it be to slam the door shut on the Georgetown rivalry AND get a measure of revenge against those corn-fed Indiana hicks in the same season?

I'd like them to win this one for Howard, and Derrick, and our nerdy coach in those ugly jackets. And win this one for all the fans who grew up in the 80s and had to watch Georgetown and UConn get their titles before we did.

And maybe, if you have a chance, smack Cody Zeller in the nose for good measure. For some reason, all of a sudden, I really hate that kid.

Jeremy Ryan is a writer/editor for CNYcentral.com in Syracuse. Follow him on Twitter @JeremyRyan44.

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