Sometimes...you just know. Call it a gut feeling. You know when your team is going to win. Case in point:
Syracuse 83 Georgia 81 - a score that doesn't do the game justice.
(Yes, I just look for an excuse to play that video.) Georgia's Shandon Anderson drills a three in the waning seconds of OT in the 1996 West regional semis. Syracuse's John Wallace receives the inbound pass, careens up court, and counters with a three of his own. A game-winning bucket propelling the Orangemen into the Elite Eight. As frantic an ending as the NCAA can deliver.
But the funny thing is, watching it all happen, I knew that Syracuse wasn't losing that game. Even before Jason Cipolla's game-tying jumper forced overtime...
...I wasn't buying a Bulldogs win. The Orangemen were going to win, period. It's weird, but as fans, sometimes we have a "sports sense." A serene place that allows us to see the bigger picture. Like knowing that Terrence Roberts' three against Rutgers in 2005 was going in, or that Gerry McNamara's wild run was only going to end in a Big East tournament championship.
This "sports sense" certainly applies to losing, too.
Fans know when their team doesn't have the goods in a game. There are a lot of factors that go into when a fan knows their team is going down. But whatever the reasons, you just know when your team is not going to win.
Kansas 87 Syracuse 58 -- and it wasn't even that close (I'll spare you the YouTube highlights.)
Jim Boeheim's Orangemen didn't stack up with Roy Williams' loaded Jayhawks -- a lineup that consisted of future pros Nick Collison, Drew Gooden, and Kirk Hinrich. Maybe you've forgotten, so let me remind you how bad this second round was. At halftime the Orangemen were down 39-34. I'm no (absolute) mathemagician, but even I can figure out that SU was outscored 48 - 24 in the second half. Yikes. And when the dust finally settled, Syracuse was out-rebounded 56 - 23 on its way to Boeheim's worst loss in NCAA play, ever.
(As a footnote, I have to mention that Syracuse committed just 6 turnovers and forced 20. Yep, this game was all sorts of ugly.)
I think in the back of our minds, before any tip or kickoff or puck drop, we have an idea of what the outcome will be, no matter how much we don't want to admit it. If a fan allows himself or herself to think a win for the good guys is destined, well, that's an inadvertent jinx. But just the same, think a loss is coming and what's the point to watching or even caring? Still, there are times when confidence over takes. That's the "sports sense" telling us the answer even before we hear the question. SU v. Georgia; SU v. Kansas; just some examples but the theory applies to every team in every sport.
But Thursday's game against Indiana? East Region semifinal. Syracuse v. Indiana. Washington D.C. I have no clue. The Hoosiers have been one of the most consistent top teams all season. Cody Zeller on the inside, Victor Oladipo doing just about everything, and Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford hitting from deep. IU could be the kryptonite to Syracuse's Superman.
But just the same, the Orange have beaten teams like Pittsburgh and Georgetown just in the last two weeks. Its also beat Louisville, the overall No. 1 seed, one time and at another point lead the Cardinals by 16 in the second half of the Big East tournament championship before going down in flames. Also, SU has a potential lottery pick in Michael Carter-Williams, a future pro in CJ Fair, and a ton of potential talent in young players. Oh yeah, let's not forget Boeheim and his Hall of Fame resume.
Reasons to believe in a Syracuse win and reasons to believe in a Syracuse loss. The tourney is all about match ups and Indiana may be the worst match up possible for the Orange. Which makes me think SU won't win, but I don't think it will get blown out. And, given it all, I could still see an SU win. I have no gut feeling here, no "sports sense" kicking in, and from some Tweets I've received, I'm not the only one unsure about Thursday.
@matthewmcclusky If SU continues to struggle on offense and IU can be effective against the zone, yes. But I see a tight game.— Doug Harris (@Harrs21) March 25, 2013
Will SU play offense like it did against Montana but play shutdown defense like it did against Cal? If it does, Syracuse should advance.
@matthewmcclusky Any team could potentially get blown out.....I just don't see it happening to SU against IU.— Meghan Viens (@MegV44) March 25, 2013
Tough to argue with that logic with the way this season, and this tournament, has gone. SU probably could win by 10 just as easily as IU could. And Florida Gulf Coast could run the table.
Even confident Syracuse tweets include a little superstition. I think that's where a lot of fans are right now. Hoping for a close game, but not totally sure if Indiana will run the Orange out of the gym. Just the same, I'm sure a lot of Orange fans have said something like, "Well, maybe if the defense is there and they're hitting shots," when asked whether their team could win.
Indiana may be too good, with too many weapons, to lose in the Sweet 16. But this Orange team has accomplished so much, and does have the talent, and certainly the coaching, to go far.
I guess what I do know is this game doesn't feel like the '01 Kansas game for Syracuse. It also doesn't feel like the '96 Georgia game. Anything can happen in D.C. Sometimes you just know...and sometimes you just don't.