We've done a fair amount of coverage on Syracuse Orange women's basketball on the site this season, thanks almost entirely to Sean Farrell, who has embedded himself so deeply in the program that Coach Q even offered him a gig.
I'm personally thankful to Sean F. for his hard work because it's certainly not the kind of coverage I could have gotten otherwise. Truth be told, I haven't really paid that much attention to the SU WBB squad this year and if I had to admit to a number of minutes I've watched of their games this season, it would have to be zero.
The world is a funny place and now it's March and there's only one Syracuse Basketball playing in the NCAA Tournament and it ain't the one we've all been watching.
So while we've got in-depth previews on SU players from people who know, I thought it might be a good idea to learn for myself what I need to know so I can properly root for the Orange this evening. And then I figured you're probably in the same boat as me. So, let's do this together...
What is Syracuse Women's Basketball?: It's a Syracuse basketball team comprised of female players competing against other female athletes from other schools. Just like with the men's team, they compete in the ACC and they play for the chance to enter the NCAA Tournament be crowned National Champion.
Don't They Just Hand UConn The National Title Ever Year?: Feels that way to the casual observer. The Huskies have won four of the last six titles, including the last two, but some other schools have snuck in there as well. Syracuse is not one of them.
Give Me The Quick Recap of Syracuse WBB's Entire History: The program started play in 1971 and was, for all intents and purposes, pretty awful until Quentin Hillsman took over in 2006. Slowly but surely the program started to make it into the post-season more often until that became an expectation. Now, Hillsman has led the Orange to six consecutive postseason appearances including two straight NCAA berths, 12 postseason victories and six straight winning seasons while winning 63 percent of his games. The one thing the program has yet to do is make it out of the first weekend of the tournament.
Do They Have a Boeheim Too?: Kinda but not really. Their head coach is Quentin Hilsman. While he can bring that patented Boeheim brash and that patented Boeheim snark to a press conference, he also bring a fashion sense that is light years beyond anything Jim Boeheim could ever muster, Juli or not. He also makes facial expressions that Boeheim would kill for.
Who Is Their Rakeem Christmas?: Well, it would have been Brittney Skyes, but last year's leading scorer has sat out most of this season with an ACL injury. In fact, she recovered from the initial injury, returned mid-year, and re-injured it in her first game back. It's impressive that the Orange have made it this far without her and speaks to the talent level on the roster.
As for the players who actually played, super sophomores Alexis Peterson and Briana Day have led the way. 5-foot-6 guard Peterson led the team in scoring (15.1 PPG) and earned All-Conference honors. Meanwhile, 6-foot-4 center Day averaged 9.8 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 2.8 BPG. To put that in perspective, no SU player has ever grabbed more boards in a season.
Who is Their Trevor Cooney?: Well, if you're looking for a pure shooter who has tons of potential but just can't seem to make them fall, look no further than junior guard Brianna Butler. Butler has had some Cooney-esque evenings from beyond the arc, including an 0-for-14 evening against North Carolina. But she has improved her percentages as the year rolled on and she ended up the team's second-leading scorer at 13.3 PPG. If she's on, the Orange are that much more dangerous.
How'd The Season Go?: Pretty well. The Orange raced out to an 8-1 start with their lone blemish being a close loss to the No. 1 team in the nation. The wheels came off a bit with back-to-back losses to ranked squads and from there the Orange seemed to exist in the usual limbo of beating the teams they were supposed to and losing to the teams they were supposed to. They finally snapped out of it with a win over No. 13 North Carolina in February and entered the ACC Tournament as a 5-seed. They were upset by lowly Wake Forest in their first game and that probably bumped them down to an 8-seed in the NCAAs. They finished with a 21-9 (11-5) record and were ranked as high as 19th in the nation, the highest AP ranking in program history.
Who Are They Playing in the Tournament?: The 8-seed Orange are taking on the 9-seed Nebraska Cornhuskers at 7:30 p.m. EST in Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC. The game will be televised on ESPN2, so, watch.
What Happens If They Win?: The Orange will almost certainly get a shot at redemption against the 1-seed South Carolina Gamecocks. The Orange had SC on the ropes back in November, up ten with six minutes to play. Then the No. 1 team in the nation made a run and locked up a 67-63 victory. The game was proof that the Orange were capable of hanging with the top teams, even if they still hadn't proved they could beat them.
What Happens If They Lose?: The Orange season will have another bittersweet ending that includes an NCAA Tournament appearance, but a short one.
What Does Our Traitorous Muslim President Think Syracuse's Chances Are?: First of all, easy there, slugger. Second of all, Obama has the Orange winning in the first round but losing to South Carolina in the second. Obama loves chalk so it's no surprise. We should launch an investigation into his love of chalk. Probably an evil plot of some kind.
Why Should I Care?: Well, for one, it's not like you have a men's basketball option at the moment. And also, the women's squad deserves some love. Especially after having to play most of their season in front of sparse crowds. The least we can do is cheer them on for their successes and because we root for Syracuse, not just Syracuse men's basketball.