The Syracuse Orange's run to the 2016 Final Four has been a learning experience for many people. Some folks have learned not to discount Jim Boeheim no matter what. Others have learned not to turn their back on Malachi Richardson in the second half of a basketball game. Others still have learned not make vacation plans for the first weekend in April just in case.
So we ask, what is the biggest thing you've learned from SU's magical run to the final weekend of the season.
The biggest thing to take away from Syracuse's incredible and miraculous run to the Final Four is this: March Madness is crazy and defies all sense of reason and logic. If you didn't understand that fact previously, you HAVE to understand it now. Syracuse entered the tournament with less than 20 wins, lost five of their last six games, and wasn't even predicted to make the tournament. Despite all of this, the Orange are now, somehow, one of the last four teams remaining. The recent 2013 Syracuse team who started the year 25-0 and at one point was ranked No. 1 in the country didn't make it past opening weekend, but this year's team somehow made the Final Four. Think about that for a second. March Madness is absolutely crazy, and if you try to think about it logically for too long, your brain will probably hurt–so just sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
The two biggest thing that I take away from this NCAA Tournament run is that the regular season is irrelevant. All you have to do is play well enough to get yourself in the NCAA Tournament, and if you're in there you have a chance. Obviously you want the best seed possible, but its been proven time and again that anybody can beat anybody. I just think that all you have to do in the regular season is play yourself into the NCAA tournament. The other thing that I take away is that Syracuse has a pretty awesome fan base. The support for both the men's and women's teams has been outstanding. This activity and comments on this website have been tremendous. Syracuse fans, pat yourself on the back.
The biggest thing that I've seen is the heart and determination of this team that has finally had its time to shine. The first two games were fun to watch, if only because there was little doubt of victory after some big second half runs. This weekend, I'm not afraid to admit that I thought our season was over at several points during both games. Last night was the worst. It also didn't help that the radio reception kept cutting out on my way home from Long Island. I basically missed the lead that put the Orange ahead. Just when I thought their magical run was over, they dug really deep and pulled it out in the end.
The NCAA Tournament is a big stupid narrative machine, and in sports, people will go down with their preconceived notions and ideas about a coach, player, or program kicking and screaming. Syracuse has a Hall of Fame coach, a group of totally likable players, many of whom have sacrificed a fair amount and have been totally dedicated to the team, and a story that is applauded any other year, but we're a few days from the calendar turning to April and people are still debating SU's bubble status. It all just makes me want to see this team win the whole damn thing more.
My biggest takeaway from this year's Final Four is that the tournament is indeed a crapshoot and seeding just doesn't matter. The NCAA Tournament offers a clean slate where everyone is 0-0. You never know where experienced guards will take you (and talented freshmen). A little luck and talent can go a long way.
No matter how this run ends, I hope that Syracuse fans remember this team for the heart they showed throughout. It hasn't been pretty, but we can't sit here as fans and say that this group hasn't given us everything they have.
I don't know if I've learned anything new. The NCAA Tournament's not always fair, and not always sensible, but it's almost always fun (except you, UConn v. Butler), and almost always has some luck involved. Sometimes you're on the right side of luck. Others, the wrong side. I'm just glad to know that there's a payoff for all the years we fell short of expectations.
That when it's working in your favor, the NCAA Tournament is weird, ridiculous, wonderful, disturbing, and fun. And that even though people who cover it bring their own preconceived notions and biases to paint it however they like, we know how special it is when a team left for dead makes a run like this.