I pitched an idea to Sean to do a post on the NCAA Tournament history of the Syracuse Orange when they assume the role of the "underdog". Under Jim Boeheim, there have been a few occasions where Syracuse was seeded outside of the Top 4 and thus unexpected to advance past the opening weekend, so let's look at each of those:
1985- 7th Seed in East Region
Syracuse defeated the #10 seed, DePaul Blue Demons, 70-65 before losing to the #2 seed, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 70-53. It's important to note that the site for these games was the Omni in Atlanta, so Georgia Tech had a decided home-court advantage
1992- 6th Seed in East Region
Syracuse defeated the #11 seed,Princeton Tigers, 51-43 in their opener. The Orange are ousted by the #3 seed, Massachusetts Minutemen, 77-71 in overtime in their next game. Once again, Syracuse faces a road game in the 2nd round as these games were played in Worcester, Massachusetts.
1995- 7th Seed in Midwest Region
Syracuse survives the #10 seed, Southern Illinois Salukis, in their 1st rd game, winning 96-92. In Round 2, the Orange lost to the #2 seed, Arkansas Razorbacks, 96-94 in overtime. This game is remembered for the unfortunate time-out called by Lawrence Moten when the Orange had none remaining. These games were played in Austin, Texas, not too far from the Arkansas campus, but not close enough to be a "road" game for the Orange.
1998- 5th Seed in South Region
Syracuse won their 1st-round game against the #12 seed, Iona Gaels, 63-61 behind a late 3-pointer from Marius Janulis. The Orange then pulled off a mild upset in their next game as they defeated the #4 seed, New Mexico Lobos, 56-46 in Lexington, Kentucky, to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. In their next game, the #1 seed Duke Blue Devils ended the run, winning 80-67 over SU in St. Petersburg, Florida
1999- 8th Seed in South Region
Syracuse is bounced right away by the #9 seed, Oklahoma State Cowboys, 69-61 in Round 1, which was played in Indianapolis, Indiana.
2001- 5th Seed in Midwest Region
Syracuse defeated the #12 seed, Hawaii Warriors, 79-69 in round one. In their 2nd game, the Orange lost to the #4 seed, Kansas Jayhawks, 87-58 in a game played in Dayton, Ohio.
2004- 5th Seed in Phoenix Regional
Following the 2003 title win, the Orange went west and defeated the #12 seed, BYU Cougars, 80-75 behind the record-setting 43 point performance from Gerry McNamara. In their next game, Syracuse beat the #4 seed, Maryland Terrapins, 72-70 to advance out of Denver, Colorado. In the Sweet Sixteen, Syracuse fell to the #8 seed, Alabama Crimson Tide, 80-71.
2006- 5th Seed in Atlanta Regional
Following their incredible Big East Tournament run, Syracuse went from the wrong side of the bubble to a #5 seed. Unfortunately, McNamara's injury hampered his ability to play in the 66-58 1st round loss to the #12 seed, Texas A&M Aggies, in a game played in Jacksonville, Florida.
All told, Syracuse has only advanced to the Sweet Sixteen twice out of the eight opportunities they had as the "underdog". Now with the first double-digit seed in program history, we get the chance to see how the Orange fare in the Cinderella role, and let's be honest, we'd all love SU to bust some of those expert brackets in the opening weekend.
Friday's game also marks the 1st NCAA Tournament game that the Orange will play in St. Louis, Missouri, but even in a year of firsts, SU will see some familiar foes.This year's draw gives Syracuse an opportunity to even their NCAA Tournament record against Dayton, which beat the Orange in 2014. Should Syracuse and Michigan State win their openers, the Orange would then get a chance to avenge the 2000 Tournament loss to the Spartans. We won't get too far ahead of ourselves there though, remember it's all about "survive and advance".