1975. 1987. 1996. 2003. 2013. And now 2016. This Syracuse Orange squad takes it place among some of the best and most memorable Orange teams that came before them. Not everyone gets to make it to the Final Four but those that do become legends in the eyes of SU fans.
It got us thinking. While Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney, Tyler Lydon, and Malachi Richardson look to ascend to Orange basketball immortality, who are the Syracuse greats who already stand tall amongst their Final Four peers? Who are the players who exemplify Syracuse in the Final Four more than any other? We rounded up some answers from a few folks with a few caveats.
1. We're talking into account everything these players did in the NCAA Tournament that year. It's about the complete run to the Final Four, not just what happened once they got there.
2. We're trying to keep positions intact as much as possible.
3. We're not counting 2016 guys, as they still have some time to build their legacies further.
Based on the highly-scientific TNIAAM voting system, here's what we came up with (Ed. Note - We failed in adhering to Rule No. 2. We simply couldn't put any of those guys on the 2nd Team and we struggled finding big men).
Syracuse's All-Final Four 2nd Team
Michael Carter-Williams (2013) - The sensational sophomore had a breakout game in the Sweet Sixteen win over Indiana, scoring 24 points. In the other three pre-Final Four contests, he was an all-around star for the Orange, either scoring in double-digits or dishing out a ton of assists. He even grabbed 11 rebounds in the Elite Eight win. MCW was shut down in the Final Four game itself, which dinged him.
Sherman Douglas (1987) - As a sophomore, Douglas dominated for the Orangemen in the NCAAs. He led the team in scoring vs. Western Kentucky (27) and in the Indiana loss (20). He was also the prototype for the SU point guard, taking control of the offense and working as the spoke from which the wheel turned.
Gerry McNamara (2003) - The freshman shooting phenom hadn't quite come into his own but he certainly had his moments in that tournament run. Namely the 14-point performance vs. Oklahoma State to help key a second round comeback and his 19-point, four-steal effort to help seal the win over Texas in the Final Four. Of course there's also his impossible first-half in the National Championship game vs. Kansas when he hit six three-pointers. Sure he faded in the second half but he did enough to help the Orange win the title.
Derrick Coleman (1987) - Coleman was a rebounding machine in the '87 tournament, grabbing 14 vs. North Carolina in the Elite Eight and 19 in the National Title game. His miss on the front end of a one-and-one that could have prevented Keith F'in' Smart's shot still haunts us all.
Hakim Warrick (2003) - Just for The Block alone he might have qualified to be here. But Warrick actually had a sneaky-good tournament in his sophomore season as well. He scored in double-digits in every game except the championship, topping out at 18 points vs. Texas in the Final Four. Warrick also doesn't get enough credit for his scoring efficiency in the tournament, shooting 52 percent overall.
Syracuse's All-Final Four 1st Team
Jimmy Lee (1975) - The original Syracuse White Guy Who Shoots A Lot, Lee was second-fiddle to Rudy Hackett but he still had plenty of big moments to shine. His 18-footer in the closing moments vs. North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen iced the comeback victory. He then scored 25 points in the Elite Eight win over Kansas State. Despite losing to Kentucky in the Final Four, Lee led the Orangemen in defeat with 23 points. He also scored 27 in the third-place consolation game, which is a thing that used to happen.
Carmelo Anthony (2003) - If he wasn't on this list, you might have rioted. Melo's first and only NCAA Tournament will go down in Syracuse history. He led the Orange in scoring if five of the six games and saved his best for last. His 33-point performance vs. Texas in the Final Four was a scoring record for a freshman. His 20-point, 10-point performance in the finals vs. Kansas led the Orange to victory and led him to immortality.
John Wallace (1996) - His omission would probably be more damning than even Carmelo. No player has ever carried Syracuse on his back through the NCAA Tournament quite like Wallace. He led the team in scoring in every single game, including a 30-point performance against Georgia in an epic overtime Sweet Sixteen game. He scored 21 in the Final Four win over Mississippi State and then 29 in the loss to Kentucky in the finals. If only a few balls bounced differently that day...
Rudy Hackett (1975) - The 1975 Final Four team gets forgotten for a lot of reasons but the truth is they deserve more credit. Hackett deserves more credit just for his own effort in the tournament went down. Rudy kicked off the tournament with a 32-point performance vs. LaSalle and then 32-points in an overtime win over St. Bonaventure. The Elite Eight win over Kansas State was his masterpiece with 28 points and 16 rebounds. He wasn't able to lead the team to victory in the Final Four or consolation game but he finished the latter with 28 points to lead the team one more time.
Rony Seikaly (1987) - Perhaps the only Syracuse big man you think of when you think of NCAA Tournament dominance, Seikaly averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds per game throughout the 1987 run, leading the team in scoring three times. His best game was a 33-point effort vs. Florida in the Sweet Sixteen. His 18 & 10 performance in the championship game was almost enough.
So, how did we screw this up? Who did we snub? I'm sure you've got thoughts in the comments below...