Syracuse is never going to host the Final Four. That's both true and okay, since a) it's not the type of city destination that earns those types of events, and b) even if it were, the infrastructure is not there to support an event that size.
BUT, Syracuse's Carrier Dome has hosted seven different NCAA Tournament East Regionals -- the latest culminating yesterday with Michigan State's overtime victory over Louisville. The Spartans are the biggest surprise in this year's Final Four, and now the question begs: can they live up to the accomplishments of previous "Syracuse Regional" winners? For those who don't recall, those were:
1983 Georgia Bulldogs (4-seed; 24-10): Lost in National Semi-Finals
One of the best teams in Georgia basketball history couldn't get past NC State's miraculous run in 1983. But before that loss, they were an impressive group -- even without star Dominique Wilkins, who left for the NBA Draft the preceding offseason. The 1982-83 Bulldogs won the SEC Tournament, before beating VCU, St. John's and North Carolina in the NCAAs.
1997 North Carolina Tar Heels (1-seed; 28-7): Lost in National Semi-Finals
In Dean Smith's final season, the Heels made it back to the Final Four, but unfortunately (for them) fell to eventual champion Arizona. Led by Antawn Jamison, Shammond Williams and Vince Carter, UNC won the ACC Tournament, then defeated Fairfield, Colorado, California and Louisville on the way to the Final Four. They were the second straight Syracuse regional winner to lose to the eventual champ.
2000 Florida Gators (5-seed; 29-8): Lost in National Final
After squeaking by Butler in round one, the Mike Miller- and Udonis Haslem-led Gators made short work of every other opponent en route to the National Final against Michigan State. While they lost in the SEC Tournament, the team rebounded to beat the aforementioned Bulldogs, followed by Illinois, Duke and Oklahoma State en route to the Final Four. There, they beat the tournament's surprise team, North Carolina, before losing to a loaded Spartans squad -- making them the third straight Syracuse regional winner to lose to the eventual champ.
2002 Maryland Terrapins (1-seed; 32-4): Won National Championship
Led by Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox, the best team in Terps' history was a force to be reckoned with in 2001-02. They finished the ACC regular season with a 15-1 mark in league play, but still managed a one-seed despite their conference tournament loss. In the NCAAs, Maryland beat Sienna, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Connecticut to earn themselves a trip to the Final Four. They'd beat Kansas in the semi-final, a battle of two of the nation's top teams all season, followed by a dominating win over an overmatched Indiana team. They were the first Syracuse regional winner to take home the title, and the third Syracuse regional winner NOT named UNC to beat the Tar Heels during their respective championship season.
2005 North Carolina Tar Heels (1-seed; 33-4): Won National Championship
The second of two straight ACC teams to win the Syracuse regional as well as the National Championship. This loaded Tar Heels squad featured a ton of college stars like Sean May, Rashad McCants, Jawad Williams, Raymond Felton and Marvin Williams, yet like Maryland, also failed to win the ACC Tournament that season. UNC beat Oakland, Iowa State, Villanova and Wisconsin on the way to that year's Final Four. They then beat Big Ten squads Michigan State and (best-team-in-school-history) Illinois to take home the title. That's five straight Syracuse regional winners that either WERE North Carolina or beat them, for those keeping track.
2010 West Virginia Mountaineers (2-seed; 31-7): Lost in National Semi-Finals
The 'Neers are the only one-time Big East team to get through the Syracuse regional as champs, after one of the program's best seasons of its modern history (post-Jerry West). Led by Da'Sean Butler, Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks (all of whom you, Orange fan, hated that year), West Virginia won themselves the Big East Tournament title, and then ran through Morgan State, Missouri, Washington and Kentucky to get to the Final Four. They were no match for the Blue Devils, however, as eventual champ Duke beat them by 21 in their semi-final contest. WVU ends the streak of UNC-involved teams (see above) for Syracuse regional winners, as well as a two-year championship streak for the region.
2015 Michigan State Spartans (7-seed; 27-11): TBD
This year's Michigan State squad is the first Big Ten team to win a Syracuse regional, and is also the lowest (highest, if you prefer) seed to win a Syracuse regional by a significant margin. Their winning percentage, however, is higher than that of Georgia's in 1983, if that means anything to you. The Spartans lost the Big Ten title game, but then beat Georgia, Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisville to get to this year's Final Four -- not a simple group to get through at all. Should Michigan State fall to Duke, and then the Blue Devils win it all, they'll be the seventh of seven Syracuse Regional champs to either lose to the eventual champs or be the champs.
Nothing crazy above, obviously, but a fun bit of minutiae to browse through as you likely belabor the state of your bracket and continue to be sad about the Orange not being involved in this year's tournament. In case you missed some of the fun trends that were (and weren't outlined above):
- Every Syracuse regional winner so far has either lost to the eventual national champ or was the eventual national champ.
- Five of six Syracuse regional winners have either beaten North Carolina on the way (either in the NCAAs or in the regular season) or were North Carolina (twice).
- Five of six Syracuse regional winners have beaten Duke en route (either in the NCAAs or in the regular season) -- with Georgia being the only exception so far. While Michigan State lost to Duke earlier in the year, they have a chance at redemption on Saturday.
- Three ACC, two SEC, one Big East and one Big Ten school have won the Syracuse regional. See? We were #goacc all along!
Any other fun facts we're missing? Weigh in below.