I've been a Syracuse Orange basketball fan for 20 years. In that time I've watched a lot of really good teams come and go. I've also watched some really frustrating teams come and go. While there's always room for error, you can pretty much get a sense of what to expect when the NCAA Tournament comes around based on which one you've been dealing with all season.
But as we've covered before, there is no logic in the NCAA Tournament. Only magic and pain and luck and perseverance and insanity. That's how we live in a world where that Wes Johnson/Arinze Onuaku Syracuse team didn't make it out of the Sweet Sixteen and this often-infuriating sack of humans held together by Michael Gbinije is headed to the Elite Eight for the chance to go to the Final Four.
I picked Syracuse to win the game but I honestly couldn't tell you why or how I thought they'd do it. They really shouldn't have been able to. Sabonis is a hoss and Wiltjer can shoot the lights out. And both of them did exactly what we feared they do. And Syracuse still won. WTF?
There were a million signs during the game it wouldn't happen, too. Gonzaga's butty run to start. Their inability to miss three-pointers (a staple of Syracuse opponents). Their second-half run to pull away. The dubious call on Trevor Cooney being out of bounds when he clearly wasn't. The basketball gods still put all of the pieces into place for Syracuse to lose this game so that the rest of America could enjoy the NCAA Tournament in peace, knowing that our wrong had been righted.
And yet we're still here. Because of Gbinije's stellar play. Because Trevor Cooney was clutch in ways that didn't involve shooting (even if they did call him out). Because Tyler Lydon picked up the second-most-important block in Orange history. Because Malachi Richardson and Tyler Roberson did just enough.
Rooting for Syracuse most years is a contact sport that takes years off your life. This season, and this tournament run, might take off decades. But that's why we do it, right? This is why we stick around. Just in case the pieces come together at just the right time. Just in case the 2-3 zone needs to remind people why Jim Boeheim employs it. Just in case a 19-win Syracuse team is the one that ends up in the Elite Eight.
See you Sunday.