Good things come to those who wait.
The Syracuse Orange women's basketball players waited patiently on Monday night, hoping to hear their names called during the women's NCAA Tournament Selection show. It's been five years since SU's last NCAA Tournament appearance and, at times, it felt that long in the watch party held in the Carmelo K. Anthony Center. With 60 teams announced and only two games left, Syracuse finally came up on the big screen.
"It was a huge sigh of relief, a huge weight off my shoulder," senior Lacie Hall said.
The No. 22 Orange take on the Creighton Bluejays this Saturday at 11:20. SU finished the year with a program-best 24-7 record overall and went 11-5 in conference play.
"We definitely...especially the senior class, are making our mark in history," Hall said.
Syracuse has made four NCAA appearances, but has never won a game in the tournament. SU has made four consecutive trips to the WNIT, so this is the first NCAA appearance for the outgoing seniors.
"For me being a senior, every game is my last so I'm going to put extra effort into everything I do," Carmen Tyson-Thomas said.
Tyson-Thomas said that she doesn't know exactly what to expect because she has never been in this position. However, Syracuse's previous tournament experience should be comparable to what happens this week.
"We treat every game like we're supposed to," CTT said. "We go in, do scout, go to practice, apply what they do, do what we do. I feel as though even though it's NCAA, it's the same thing that's going to happen. I've never been in this place before, but I expect the same thing."
The Orange defeated Villanova in the Big East Tournament and lost a competitive game with UConn in the semifinals.
"I felt that as a team we competed both games," Kayla Alexander said. "During that tournament, I think we proved as a team we could compete at the next level...and we could compete at the top level with those top teams.
Creighton went 24-7 this season, which tied for the second most wins in school history. The Jays lost to Illinois State in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Like Syracuse, Creighton has only made four previous NCAA tourney appearances: 1992, 1994, 2002, and 2012. Last season in the tournament, the Jays lost 69-67 in a near upset of No. 3 St. John's.
If Syracuse moves on, the Orange plays on March 25 against either second-seeded Tennessee or 15th-seeded Oral Roberts. Both the first round and the Round of 32 for Syracuse would be in Knoxville and following two rounds would be in Oklahoma City.
"I feel like we're a solid basketball team so no matter where the location, we keep it together mentally and just go out there and play," Alexander said.
Coach Quentin Hillsman said his team is a good road team and he's comfortable wherever the the Orange end up. SU played five true road games in non-conference play and won a regular season tournament in San Juan.
"Going on the road for us is not strange," he said. "So we're not worried about being on the road, we're just worried about playing well. Obviously, we just got to take care of ourselves."
And what does Syracuse know about their opponent, a mid-major from Nebraska?
Alexander said she knew one of Creighton's players, who is Canadian. On Creighton's men's basketball team.
"All I know about Creighton is they shoot nine threes a game," Hillsman said.