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Ranking Syracuse basketball’s all-time Final Four games

We’ve played in a bunch of these. Which were best?

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Syracuse vs North Carolina Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday night, the 2017 Final Four comes to a close. The Syracuse Orange didn’t participate this year, but that doesn’t erase the lengthy history we have with the sport’s final weekend. SU has a lot of great moments (including one really awesome one), and a few not-so-great ones.

Still, we figured it might be cool to look back at each of the Orange(men)’s games during the Final Four from the first trip in 1975 through last season.

1. 2003 National Championship: Syracuse 81, Kansas 78

Obviously. Of all six trips, this was the one that ended in a national title, and this was the game where we won it. You don’t need to be reminded of the details, but just in case: Gerry McNamara hit six threes in the first half and SU led by nine mid-way through the game. KU would battle back, but up 81-78, Hakim Warrick blocked the would-be tying three from Michael Lee with just seconds remaining. The Orangemen finally climbed the mountain.

2. 2003 Semifinal: Syracuse 95, Texas 84

Before they got to face Kansas, though, Syracuse had to beat Texas -- and they ran through the Longhorns in New Orleans. Carmelo Anthony scored 33 points and added 14 boards to put together an incredibly dominant performance. Tied at 61 at one point, SU spent the latter part of the second half scoring at will. This wasn’t the biggest win for Syracuse in the Final Four, but given how good Texas was, it sure felt (and still feels) like it.

3. 1996 Semifinal: Syracuse 77, Mississippi State 69

If this game occurred today, SU detractors would call the New Jersey (East Rutherford) contest a “home game” for the Orange, and discounted the win entirely. But in 1996, the surprising Orangemen met the more surprising Bulldogs, and triumphed big on the back of John Wallace (21 points). The unforeseen run would roll on en route to the national championship game.

4. 1987 Semifinal: Syracuse 77, Providence 63

This one’s not all that memorable, but it was a dominant game for Syracuse against the upset-minded Friars. SU swept Providence during the regular season, but both contests were close. Their Final Four matchup was not, as the Orangemen led by 10 at the half, and then kept it going in the second. They held Providence to 36 percent shooting, while five players scored in double digits for SU.

5. 2013 Semifinal: Michigan 61, Syracuse 56

That wasn’t a goddamn charge. Michigan led at the half, but fought back in the second and would’ve tied the game on a Brandon Triche drive with under 20 ticks left -- if not for a bogus charge call that sent it the other way. Syracuse wouldn’t score again and lost by five. They’d probably have lost to Louisville in the title game, but that doesn’t matter with regard to the win we were robbed of. I’m still angry.

6. 1996 National Championship: Kentucky 76, Syracuse 67

This is mostly here because it was a single-digit loss that wasn’t soul-crushing. John Wallace’s 29 points tried to power the Orangemen to a win, but they simply weren’t enough. Despite shooting better from the floor (50 percent), UK’s tempo and volume of shots would win the day. Syracuse may have fared better if not for a rough first half. We’ll never know that, though.

7. 2016 Semifinal: North Carolina 83, Syracuse 66

We were pretty chill about the loss afterward, but this game was not a fun one, even if the trip to get there was. UNC blitzed the Orange from the start, out-manned them inside. We got hot for a couple minutes in the second half, but then the rally and the magic of last year died. It was rough, but sorta gravy after a Final Four run that never should’ve happened.

8. 1975 Semifinal: Kentucky 95, Syracuse 79

Syracuse got torched by the Wildcats in the semis, which makes this one forgettable. Because this team wasn’t coached by Jim Boeheim, plenty already sort of gloss over the fact that SU even played in this Final Four. But they were there, even if just for this one blowout. At least Jimmy Lee put in a quality performance with 23 points.

9. 1987 National Championship: Indiana 74, Syracuse 73

We talked about “The Shot” and Keith “F&$%ing” Smart the other day. Yes, Syracuse was seconds away from winning a title. But they didn’t. And instead, they had their (and their fans’) hearts stomped out at center court. There are ways to lose championships that make you feel miserable. And then there’s this game. Let’s never speak of it again (this is more of a personal memo).


No, we’re not talking about the 1975 consolation game at all. That doesn’t mean a thing.

Disagree with the order above? Feel free to provide your own order below.