The easy part is over for Syracuse Orange women's basketball. They made it all the way to the National Championship game in doing so laid down the gauntlet to everyone else that SU is a program to be reckoned with.
Now comes the hard part, backing it up and proving it.
Sure the Orange got shellacked by the Connecticut Huskies in the championship game but who wouldn't have? That's almost besides the point. It was always a race to the title game to see who UConn will beat for the title. The Orange just happened to be the last women standing.
The question is no longer, "How did Coach Q get his team here so quickly?" The question now is, "How does Coach Q get his team back here quickly?"
Q himself said that one of the biggest chances to come out of this run should be that the next time there's a Breanna Stewart in our backyard, she comes to Syracuse.
"We're going to get her. Next one comes, we're getting her,'' he said Tuesday night. "We won't lose another one. Don't worry about that.''
"I think the big picture is just continue doing what we're doing and stay with the process,'' he said. "I've never wavered off what we've done is recruit the best players we can recruit and recruit players that fit our system. We want to play this way. We think this is best way for us to play. So we have to recruit players that fit into our system and fit the way we play.
"I think the one thing that even UConn shows you is that you can build a team and get really good players and win as many national championships as you want. You really can. If you have the best players, you're going to win national championships.''
Speaking of Stewart, Q put to bed any lingering sense of bad feelings regarding Breanna's commitment to UConn.
"I'm really happy for Breanna Stewart. She came to my camp when she was in ninth grade. I watched her grow up and be the kind of player that she is. She's a great player, just a great kid. You talk about a kid being that good from Syracuse, it really doesn't happen that often. So I give her a lot of credit. I'm really happy for her and really proud of her and all the things that she's accomplished.''
The players probably didn't feel too good during and after the UConn beating but when they had a chance to see things big picture, they see how bright the future is because of what they've accomplished.
"It's only the beginning,'' Sykes said. "We've been building these four years, and you want to get to this level and you want to get back here. So we're just going to keep building.''
In the end, Coach Q just wants Syracuse to succeed but by doing things "the right way." So far, it's worked out for them.
"And once that happens, you go home with dignity. And our kids have done that. All six of our seniors are in graduate and are leaving with master's degrees. Not only are they great students, they're great athletes and great students. From top to bottom, from our academic support staff to our coaching staff, I think we're doing it the right way at Syracuse.''
You won't see any pushback from Orange fans. Though, now the pressure is on us as a fanbase to come out and support these women next year as they try to get back to the pinnacle. The days of 200-300 people in the stands should be over. We hope so.