Just two weeks ago, Syracuse basketball’s season was done. Dead. Finished. It was over.
Admit it — you said it. We all did.
It wasn’t anyone going out on a limb or being unrealistic — the season seemed over. Nothing was going right, and the bad losses overshadowed the one, maybe two, decent wins the Orange had.
And then a Tuesday matchup with Wake Forest at the Carrier Dome kept the door slightly open. The Orange won, 81-76, after being down by eight points in the second half. Andrew White had 27 points, Taurean Thompson finished with 18 points, and 16 of them came in the latter 20 minutes. It was a good win, but nothing to write home about. There was still work to be done.
Fast forward to the following Saturday when Syracuse welcomed then-No. 6 Florida State to the Carrier Dome. SU outscored FSU 44-26 in the first half. The Orange struggled a bit in the second half, but ultimately held on for a 10-point victory. This win raised some eyebrows, but some overlooked it. The Seminoles were coming off of a 22-point loss to Georgia Tech, and some say the Orange caught FSU at the right time. Maybe so — but it was a win, nonetheless. SU was 13-9 (5-4) on the year.
And then this past Wednesday, a road game against Dennis Smith, Jr. and North Carolina State. The Wolfpack had been horrible defensively all season, and this matchup was no different. It was John Gillon’s night. The graduate student had a career-high 43 points on 9-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. He was a perfect 14-for-14 from the free-throw line and the Orange overcame a 16-point second-half deficit.
After the five minute overtime period, the Orange improved to 14-9 (6-4) and had No. 9 Virginia scheduled for a Saturday matinee.
And now to Saturday. It was what Jim Boeheim called one of the best comebacks he’s ever seen — he also said that earlier in the week about the NC State win, but who’s keeping track?
With Syracuse down 12 points at halftime, the Orange opened the second half on a 19-2 run and never lost the lead after that. It was back-and-forth, and felt like it was always within one-to-two possessions — but Syracuse hung on. Four in a row, three games above .500 in league play and Tyus Battle scored a career-high 23 points. Oh, and Jim Boeheim earned his 1,000th win in front of 27,000-plus at the Dome.
It was a picture perfect day in Central New York.
The bubble talk — the oh so familiar bubble talk — is back in Syracuse.
Just 12 days ago, Syracuse didn’t have a pulse. The Orange was under .500 in league play and didn’t have a win over a ranked opponent. Now, Syracuse has life. There’s a blueprint on making the NCAA Tournament, and it doesn’t involve winning the ACC Tournament.
One thing we find ourselves saying every year: never count out Jim Boeheim.
That remains true. And as he reminded everyone during a quick interview with ESPN following Saturday’s win, he’s been here since he was 17 years old.
He must be doing something right, right?