The Syracuse Orange are not supposed to be in the 2016 NCAA Tournament Final Four. And yet, they'll play the mighty North Carolina Tar Heels Saturday with a trip to the National Championship Game on the line. There's still plenty to play for and many lessons left to learn but in the meantime, we put it to the staff to answer a question about everything that's gone down before this:
What the biggest thing you take away from Syracuse's run to the Final Four?
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 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 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.
Unlike some folks, I think this run has proven to me that the NCAA Tournament really is the best sporting event in America. You just can't beat the first weekend, especially when you get a day like that first Friday. Even when it's not upset city, it's still exciting to have an entire day of basketball with high stakes. And Syracuse's run typifies why we have a tournament and don't just let the top four teams battle it out. Because it's all about how the regular season prepares you for the post-season. And if you catch some breaks and peak at the right time, anyone can make it a run. I'm glad it was Syracuse this time.
How about you?