Just for shits and giggles, here's what I started writing roughly two minutes before Syracuse finally started chipping away at Virginia's huge lead in the second half.
At least, that's what you're probably going to hear a lot over the next couple days. That's #TheNarrative that people have been pedaling since SU beat Dayton in the first round.
Dayton was overseeded, you see. Then they beat Middle Tennessee State, which was a gift, despite the fact that those same folks were fawning over MTSU two days earlier. My personal favorite was how Gonzaga, a perennial Sweet Sixteen/Elite Eight team, was suddenly just "a mid-major." As if Gonzaga was some unknown quantity no better than Austin Peay or Stony Brook.
And so by the time the lucky Orange ran into the buzzsaw that was London Perrantes, it was fait accompli. Congrats to all of #TheNarrative folks for being "right."
Except...of course that's not true. At least not the way they want it to be.
Syracuse's road to the Elite Eight was no weaker than one traveled by some of the best teams of the last decade and you never hear anyone complain about them. And, obviously, you play the road you're given. If a team like Michigan State can't win their first-round game, that's not Syracuse's fault. We were too busy winning our game.
No, #TheNarrative had less to do with what the Syracuse basketball team did on the court and more to do with what Syracuse Basketball the brand brought with it into the tournament. The Jim Boeheim disdain. The NCAA sanctions just a year prior. The selection
That's as far as I got when Malachi Richardson hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to five and I realized two things:
1. Holy shit, they're coming back.
2. Holy shit, I reverse-jinxed this.
So, you're welcome.
Honestly, what can you even say at a moment like this? This team has no business being here but, as we've discussed, that has nothing to do with actually being here. The Orange were told over and over again that they did not belong. They didn't belong in the NCAA Tournament. They didn't belong in the second round. They didn't belong in the Sweet Sixteen. They didn't belong in the Elite Eight.
And now they don't belong in the Final Four.
There's so much to be written in the coming days about how a team left for dead in January, a team that lost to St. John's(!!!), a team that didn't even reach 20 wins until the NCAA Tournament, is now playing in the Final Four with house money and nothing to lose. Having beaten Virginia and doing so in much an impressive manner, you can't write them off against anyone left in the tournament.
Oh they won't be favored or expected to win anything in Houston. But that's the point. Frankly, I think that's how they want it.
If anything, let this team and this run be a reminder. Because of the nature of college basketball, and perhaps sports in general, you can't ever close the door on a good team until they close it themselves. You can start writing their obituary with ten minutes left in the game if you want, like I did, but be prepared to crumple it up and throw it away.
That's especially true with this team because of their nature. They're not a complete team full of 40-minute stars. They're streaky. They need to make adjustments. Certain players are good at certain things. Guys disappear for entire halves only to take over the next one (Hi, Malachi Richardson). There is little rhyme or reason to any of it and that's what makes it so infuriatingly fun.
Mostly infuriating. But now it's fun.
So as far as I'm concerned, all bets are off for Saturday. I'm not going to put limits on this team anymore because clearly they don't seem to think they have any. Not anymore, at least. In the meantime, let's praise the way Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney have led this squad. Praise Tyler Lydon, Malachi Richardson and Tyler Roberson for the ways they've contributed and even taken over when needed. Praise Dajuan Coleman and Frank Howard for being there just enough when it matters. And especially praise Jim Boeheim, the architect behind all of this, who turned a team no one wanted in the NCAA Tournament into one of it's best.