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, starting with 1975...
Head Coach: Roy Danforth (7th season)
Assistant Coach: Jim Boeheim
Leading Scorer: Rudy Hackett (22.2 PPG)
Leading Rebounder: Rudy Hackett (12.7 RPG)
Leading Passer: Jimmy Lee (3.6 APG)
Starters: Hackett, Lee, Chris Sease, Earnie Seibert, Jimmy 'Bug' Williams
Record vs. G'town: 0-1
Regular Season: The Orangemen were coming off a disappointing 19-7 season that ended in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Behind Hackett & Lee, they rattled off four wins to start the season and were 11-2 by the time late-January rolled around. A national ranking and NCAA Tournament bid seemed likely. Then the team hit a tough stretch when they went 3-5 over the next eight games, putting the postseason in doubt. The team regrouped to win the final four games of the regular season and finish 18-7.
In the ECAC tournament, they cruised past Niagara thanks to a 28-point performance by Sease and then won the conference automatic bid over St. Bonaventure thanks to 32 points from Hackett. When they needed to most, the team put it all together (sound familiar?).
In the NCAAs, the Orangemen kicked things off with a game against the La Salle Explorers. It was a battle to the wire and SU had to survive regulation in order to win in OT behind clutch Rudy Hackett free throws, 87-83.
Next up was mighty North Carolina, who keyed in on Hackett and took him out of the game. Thankfully, Jimmy Lee stepped up and willed SU to victory behind an 18-foot jumper with seconds to go. The Cardiac Orangemen advanced, 78-76.
In the East Region Finals, Syracuse faced Kansas State and once again needed overtime to settle things. Hackett was back in form, scoring 28 points and grabbing 16 rebounds while Lee scored 25 and the Orangemen were off to their first Final Four.
It was here that they met the Kentucky Wildcats, considered the second-best team in the nation. Unfortunately for SU, just like in 1996, the Wildcats were just too much and they ended SU's Cinderella run with a 95-79 thrashing. Adding insult to injury, they played a consolation game back then and Syracuse ended up losing that game to Louisville, 96-88.
(How bout those DARK blue uniforms?)
It was Syracuse's least successful Final Four trip but it was a stepping stone necessary for the program to take the next step. SU remained an NCAA Tournament mainstay for years to come, often garnering a high seed. Though it would be a while before the next Final Four trip, the Syracuse basketball program following 1975 was in a far better place than before it.
Read more about the team and season at OrangeHoops.