Final Four Flashback: The 1987 Syracuse Final Four Team

USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange will be making their fifth trip to the Final Four on Saturday when they take on the Michigan Wolverines in the Georgia Dome. Before they get there, let's take a look back at the previous four trips. Here's 1987...

The Syracuse Orange will be making their fifth trip to the Final Four on Saturday when they take on the Michigan Wolverines in the Georgia Dome. Before they get there, let's take a look back at the previous four trips.

On Tuesday, we started with the 1975 team. Today is the 1987 run...

Head Coach: Jim Boeheim (11th season)

Assistant Coach: Bernie Fine

Record: 31-7

Conference: Big East

Leading Scorer: Sherman Douglas (17.2 PPG)

Leading Rebounder: Derrick Coleman (8.8 RPG)

Leading Passer: Sherman Douglas (7.6 APG)

Starters: Douglas, Coleman, Greg Monroe, Howard Triche, Rony Seikaly (Derek Brower started three games)

Record vs. G'town: 0-3

Regular Season: The Orangemen entered the season trying to replace three players -- Pearl Washington, Raf Addison and Wendell Alexis -- that ended up in the NBA and helped Syracuse collected a share of the Big East Conference regular-season championship with St. John's.

With no-so-high expectations, the city of Syracuse was pleasantly surprised when sophomore point guard Sherman Douglas ended up filling in nicely for Washington, and big men, center Ron Seikaly, who recovered quickly from a stress fracture in his left foot, and freshman Derrick Coleman, played really well.

The trio, along with seniors Howard Triche and Greg Monroe, helped the Orangemen begin the season 15-0 overall and climb all the way up to No. 5 in the nation. At the time, it was the best start under Boeheim ever.

SU's first loss of the season came in a game at the Michigan Wolverines - a nice coincidence, I know. The loss ended up being one of three in a five-game span, however, the Orangemen finished the season with a nice 7-2 run and captured a share of the Big East regular-season crown with Pitt and Georgetown.

In the Big East Tournament, Syracuse defeated Villanova and then Pitt to setup a Championship Game showdown with Georgetown, which defeated the Orangemen twice during the regular season.

Revenge was not in the cards for SU, as the Hoyas' Reggie Williams scored a game-high 25 points, which included five 3-pointers (back then that was a lot of 3-pointers), and collected nine rebounds to lead his team to a 69-59 victory.

After the game, Boeheim said this about Williams: "He's just a great player. If there is any better all-around player, I haven't seen him in a long time.''

(Honestly, I think Boeheim has just these quotes in a notebook someplace and just pulls them out every season.)

Following the loss, Syracuse (26-6) learned it would be the No. 2 seed in the East Region and would host Georgia Southern in round one and then the winner of No. 10-seeded Western Kentucky or No. 7-seeded West Virginia in round two.

The East Region also featured No. 1 North Carolina, No. 3 Purdue and No. 4 TCU.

(It must be noted that No. 12-seeded Middle Tennessee State was giving an at-large bid over Louisville in the East Region. The decision prompted CBS' Selection Show analyst Billy Packer to question the selection committees decision because UofL played a tougher schedule than Middle Tennessee State. Funny how nearly 30 years later the same argument was being made.)

OrangeHoops.org tells us that the Orangemen, who were trying to snap a streak of four straight second-round losses in the NCAAs, struggled with George Southern in the first round, however, had no trouble with the Hilltoppers.

This game is noteworthy in that Western Kentucky decided the only way they could get back into the game was to deliberately foul Derek Brower, a notoriously poor free throw shooter. The end result was Brower (without the ball) was running around the court, trying to avoid getting intentionally fouled by the Hilltopper's Brett McNeal. McNeal eventually succeeded in catching Brower, and sending Brower to the line. Brower would go 0-6 from the charity stripe. Over the summer the NCAA would change the rules regarding 'intentional' fouls, awarding free throws and the ball back to the team that was fouled.

Siekaly scored 33 points in a Sweet 16 victory over Floirda and then again went off for 26 points and 11 rebounds in a 79-75 victory over the Tar Heels in the Regional Final. The performance helped Boeheim earn his first trip to the Final Four as a head coach.

The Final Four in New Orleans, Y'all!!! (WARNING: The audio on the video clip is bad, so wear headphones to hear it better. If not, just enjoy the visual display. It is worth it.)

A few cool things about the 1987 NCAA Tournament and Final Four.

  • This was the LAST NCAA Tournament to feature home-court advantage.
  • This was the FIRST NCAA Tournament to feature the 3-point shot.
  • As mentioned above, this was Boeheim's first Final Four as head coach.
  • Bob Knight was coaching in his fourth Final Four. He had led Indiana to championships in 1976 and 1981.
  • Providence, "the Cinderella" of the tournament, was led by head coach Rick Pitino and point guard Billy Donovan, now Florida's head coach and a two-time National Champion. The Friars upset Georgetown, 88-73, in Louisville, in the Southeast Regional Final, to advance to the Final Four.
  • Two weeks before reaching the Final Four, Pitino's six-month-year-old son, Daniel, passed away from a sickness.
  • Eventually, all four coaches -- Knight, Pitino, Boeheim and Jerry Tarkanian (UNLV) -- would go on to win National Championships.
  • For the first time in CBS history, "One Shining Moment," was used in the epilogue.

(Back to the action...)

The semifinal featured Syracuse dominating Providence, 77-63. I could recap the details of the game, but I'd rather discuss this. FIGHT!!!

Excuse me for a second while I ask: what the heck was Derrick Coleman doing?!?!

I understand he's a freshman, but he just throws a haymaker for no reason.

I am smiling while writing this, but how does he not get tossed from this game? Luckily, Syracuse lead 49-31 at the time and it may not have mattered either way.

(Note: A few weeks into the start of the 1987-88 season, Coleman is involved in a brawl with Cornell.

A few quick thoughts on this fight: 1) If this happened today, I don't know if Derrick Brower and Derrick Coleman would ever see the floor again -- HOLY HAYMAKERS!; 2) The brawl prompted many phone calls to the Cornell athletic department over concerns the program was recruiting "thugs", because the Big Red were involved in another fight against Canisius five days earlier! Those silly bears.)

Onto the National Championship Game...

If you'd like to torture yourself, here's the last five minutes of the game.

Couple things about the Championship Game:

  • Keith "Effing" Smart scored 15 of 19 points in the second half.
  • Steve Alford went 7-for-10 from behind the 3-point arc and tallied 23 points.
  • Derrick Coleman collected 19 rebounds.
  • Brandon Triche looks so much like Howard Triche (1:53 mark), who scored only five points.
  • Syracuse went 10 of 18 from the free throw line, but before Triche went 1-for-1 at the line and Coleman missed his lone, late attempt, the Orangemen were 7-for-9 in the second half.
  • Boeheim calls timeout with 1:42 to go, up by two, leaving himself with one timeout. Out of the timeout, Syracuse runs a clear-out play for Sherman Douglas, who doesn't come close to making his shot.
  • Back in the day, Jim Boeheim was able throw down some wicked fist-pumps. Hopefully, he gets to show he still has it this weekend.

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