The 2017-18 Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season was strange in that it ebbed and flowed erratically. SU started strong, then struggled. They picked themselves back up, then seemed to skid toward the finish line. A win against Clemson to end the regular season looked like a pick-me-up, but just two games later, they were smoked by UNC.
As the last team in the NCAA Tournament field, there were few expectations for the Orange, and yet, they won three games, bowing out in the Sweet 16.
Looking at this past season compared to the last decade of results, though, where do you rank it? And also, how much do you separate the regular season from the postseason, if at all?
To start, it’s clear which two recent seasons are at the top of the list. Syracuse’s 2012-13 squad is No. 1 after going 30-10 and making the Final Four. They’re followed by the 2015-16 team, which surprised the country by running all the way to the Final Four as a 10-seed.
After that is where the conversation truly begins. But if I’m ranking things, here’s where they sort out:
3. 2011-12 (34-3; Elite Eight)
For much of the season, the Orange were the best team in the country, or damn close to it. But without Fab Melo in the NCAA Tournament, they just couldn’t get past Ohio State. They still got to the Elite Eight without their star, mind you. Still, some unrealized potential here. We should’ve just had Fab suit up and win the whole thing anyway.
4. 2009-10 (30-5; Sweet 16)
Another season marred by a critical NCAA Tournament absence (this time, Arinze Onuaku, who was hurt in the Big East Tournament against Georgetown). SU won the Big East regular season title and earned a No. 1 seed. But without AO, they were thwarted by (eventual Final Four team) Butler in the Sweet 16. I have a special attachment to this squad as that was my senior year at SU. Still, most would admit they loved this team even more than the 2012 one.
5. 2008-09 (28-10; Sweet 16)
No one cares about the blowout loss to Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 that year. Instead, you remember the Six Overtime game and the greatest basketball contest ever played. That performance, and their run to the Big East title game won Syracuse a three-seed that year. But again, you barely remember that part compared to the hard-fought game of a lifetime.
6. 2013-14 (28-6; Round of 32)
I’m avoiding the second round loss to Dayton, and spending my energies on the other great aspects of this team instead. Tyler Ennis’s buzzer-beater vs. Pitt, the 25-game win streak, the first Dome game vs. Duke -- all of these created some special moments for the Orange and fans as we were trying to figure out life in the ACC.
7. 2017-18 (23-14; Sweet 16)
This season was a roller coaster, but the shorthanded team played tough and went on an unexpected run to the Sweet 16. Perhaps overperformance should be rewarded a bit more here, but the placement does seem appropriate (to me) for a season that’s almost entirely defined by three games in March.
8. 2010-11 (27-8; Round of 32)
If only the NCAA had decided to put Marquette in a different region... That second round upset mars what was an otherwise impressive season for Syracuse after losing key players like Onuaku, Andy Rautins and Wes Johnson. It was no Final Four team, mind you. But the third-seeded Orange had another round in them at least.
9. 2014-15 (18-13; Postseason ban)
Everything was derailed the second Syracuse announced a self-imposed postseason ban. But there was one particular reason to really enjoy this team: Rakeem Christmas. The senior had paid his dues, and then broke out in 2014-15 to have one of the most under-the-radar great seasons for any recent Syracuse player. For that alone, I can appreciate 2014-15.
10. 2016-17 (19-15; NIT second round)
The worst zone of the last 10 years did figure some things out in the second half of the season, and actually rallied admirably from a rocky start. But missing the NCAAs and relying heavily on last-second heroics to win much of the time did doom this group. I don’t dislike them for it. Just don’t grade them out favorably vs. these other squads.
Agree? Disagree? Share your own opinions in the comments.