As we know, the Syracuse Orange basketball season came to a close in Omaha on Friday as the guys fell to Duke in the Sweet 16. It’s never not a tough pill to swallow when the season’s end is accompanied with an NCAA Tournament loss, but there was a certain sense of appeasement and satisfaction with how things finished.
We’ll refrain from rehashing the details, but the long and short of it is that Syracuse was greatly depleted in the 2017-2018 season since its inception and it continued to be a year of attrition as the cold winter months wore on. Nobody could have realistically expected a run to the Sweet 16.
In an ominous form of foreshadowing that probably alluded to a loss to Duke in the Sweet 16, Boeheim admitted to his team not being elite before that contest in Omaha ever began. That came to the surprise of few, certainly nobody who had followed this Syracuse team closely throughout the year.
“It’s hard to beat three teams in the tournament unless you’ve got an elite team. We’re not elite,” Boeheim said. “We’re a good team. Our defense gives us a little bit better chance. But when you play a team like Duke who knows you, it’s not as good. When I read that teams are saying, ‘We’ve played against zones, we’ll be fine.’ Those are the teams we usually beat because they haven’t played against us. They don’t know what it’s like.”
While teams that don’t know what it’s like to go up against Syracuse’s esoteric 2-3 zone have proven to struggle, teams from Syracuse’s own conference have gone 2-1 against the Orange in its last two NCAA Tournaments. That much was true this year and to Boeheim’s statement, Syracuse fell short of elite.
That doesn’t mean the tournament run wasn’t sweet though. Oddly enough, there was something calm and accepting about the loss. Soon after the final buzzer there was the normal grieving process that comes with any season’s end, but upon reflection we found a little bit of solace knowing that this team had no business in the Sweet 16. In that, having no business making runs in the tournament as a double-digit seed has become Syracuse’s business of late. The Orange are an unfathomable 7-2 as a No. 10 seed or lower in the NCAA Tournament.
That said, being a double-digit seed likely won’t have to be Syracuse’s business next season and doesn’t seem like it will be in the near term. But bare in mind that Syracuse didn’t have elite expectations from the start of this season. That’s what makes for such a sweet finish.
Until next year.