As you well know by now, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team did not make the Final Four this year. That said, some teams that beat them did.
With wins on Sunday, the South Carolina Gamecocks and North Carolina Tar Heels punched their respective tickets to Phoenix and the Final Four. South Carolina beat Syracuse at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center last November, 64-50. The Heels dominated the Orange en route to an 85-68 victory in January.
That makes two participants former Syracuse opponents, and you can potentially draw a line straight from the Orange to Gonzaga too, if you’d like. The Zags were “supposed to” beat SU in 2016’s Sweet 16. Until they weren’t. Again, we’re sorry, America.
Since then, the Bulldogs have lost just one game (a surprise upset at the hands of BYU in the regular season), and now enter their first Final Four in school history.
While South Carolina’s taken on a lot more losses since beating Syracuse, they also find themselves in the program’s first Final Four.
Debate the Orange’s involvement if you must, but the evidence is clear: Facing (and at times, beating) SU is as sure a sign as any that your team could be playing for a title come early April.
A look back at recent Final Four participants shows that Syracuse has faced at least one of the teams in 12 of the last 15 years. The program’s membership in the Big East and now ACC likely have a little bit to do with that. Annual dates with UNC, Duke, Louisville, UConn and others obviously come with the territory (and of course, those teams make the Final Four frequently).
But even in a “down” year like this one, facing off with SU can actually provide tangible long-term benefits for any program.
Want experience against a zone? The chance to line up against some future NBA talent? To varying degrees, you’ll get those from the Orange should they be placed on your schedule. Or in Gonzaga’s place, regrettably tossed into your region before beating you.
Just like last year when Syracuse didn’t deserve ALL of the credit for making the Final Four, they don’t deserve ALL of the credit for getting two or three of this year’s participants to the Final Four. But if you use last year’s logic, you might as well give them some of that credit. How else are you going to encourage yourself to watch this thing?