Win or lose, it’s the first time we’re in the First Four. We’ve already mentioned this is the least experienced Syracuse team to make the NCAA Tournament. And with a victory, Jim Boeheim will win a tournament game as the ninth different seed since taking over at SU.
Even since 1990, Boeheim has won games as every seed, No. 1 through 7. In 2016, he won his first game(s) as a 10-seed, in his first chances to do so. And now, he’ll try to do the same as an 11-seed.
That may not seem like an astounding achievement, as much as it is one of many oddities in a career that no one will ever be able to nail down when it’s over (they sure as hell can’t now, as it is). Without even looking, I can tell you this is almost definitely a record. John Wooden’s UCLA teams were regularly top seeds. Same for Coach K and Roy Williams. Rick Pitino and Bob Huggins are maybes here, especially the latter. Older “great” coaches didn’t have the same NCAA Tournament format to compare to.
As Sean mentioned yesterday in an article you’ve certainly read by now, Jim has managed to reinvent himself on the fly in the cruelest trick yet for his haters. A career made as a top-seed that only occasionally met or exceeded expectations (at least that’s the storyline) is suddenly a perennial underdog that is always on the precipice of a major upset.
This will never not be astounding to me. And as if Jim needed more angles to exploit as the most unique “great” college coach ever, perhaps this is the most unique angle of all.
So if Syracuse wins tonight, file this along with that. And then let’s see what happens next. Boeheim has already spent these last few years rewriting the book on himself. Even as the NCAA tries to rewrite the book out from under him in the form of win totals, he’s laughing his way to long-shot tournament berths, miraculous NCAA runs and what will be the most delightful “fuck you” of a march toward 1,000 wins for a second time in these coming years as well.
No, it’s not likely Syracuse remains a perennial bubble team much longer. So this chapter of the ongoing Boeheim story will soon pass. But in the meantime, might as well smirk about the entertaining strangeness of it all. For all we know, the Orange will be back to being a top-four seed next year, and then everyone can go back to hating us for a completely different reason.