With several games in the last week, you’d be forgiven for initially missing this great piece created by SB Nation and SLAM, detailing the top 50 men’s basketball teams of all time. As you figured, the 2003 Syracuse Orangemen team made the list — at No. 33.
So the first question for this group: Is that high enough?
While the Orangemen were among the top teams in the sport all year, they still entered the NCAA Tournament as a 3-seed, and needed a big block from Hakim Warrick to hang on vs. Kansas in the title game. Everyone here loves Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara, but this squad didn’t necessarily change the game by any stretch. And really, it was Carmelo Anthony and a lot of quality complementary pieces that made this work.
It’s easy enough to argue that the team ranked directly ahead of them at No. 32, the 2005 North Carolina Tar Heels, were better. Though you could quibble with some others in the vicinity that didn’t win it all, including 1985 St. John’s (No. 31 here) and 1988 Oklahoma (No. 30).
Notably, Syracuse lost in the national championship game to two different teams on this list: 1987 Indiana (No. 38) and 1996 Kentucky (No. 11).
You could make the case that the 1987 Orangemen would’ve made this list somewhere in the same range as the 2003 team had it not been for Keith (effing) Smart. While the 1996 team upsetting Kentucky would’ve been a monumental achievement, they were a 4-seed in the NCAAs and went on a bit of a miracle run. I’d argue that beating one of the best teams ever en route to a title could give you the needed boost despite that seeding, but... it’s far from black and white.
The other question I’d pose to Orange fans: Where do we think the 2010 and 2012 teams would’ve ranked, had they won it all as most of us contend was a real possibility if not for Arinze Onuaku’s 2010 injury or Fab Melo’s 2012 suspension?
In 2010, Syracuse would’ve had to beat a good Butler team that wound up making a run, a great Kansas State squad, Michigan State and a great Duke team to win it all. That’s a nice resume, but since 2010 Duke didn’t make this top 50 list, they’re not necessarily providing bonus points. It would be close, for sure.
The 2012 squad, on the other hand, would’ve assuredly made it — and been ranked pretty highly. Even without Melo, the top-seeded Orange only lost by seven to Ohio State in the East regional final, and beating a great Kansas team in the Final Four would’ve been another boost before facing off with Anthony Davis-led Kentucky (ranked seventh overall on this top 50 list). Beating that squad would’ve vaulted Syracuse (and a 37-2 record) to somewhere in the top 20, I’d assume.
But what do you think? Where would you rank the 2003 Syracuse team? And what about the 2010 and 2012 teams, had they won it all? Also check out the women’s basketball list SB Nation and SLAM created as well. While no Syracuse team is within shouting distance here, they were the national runner-ups to No. 1 team overall, 2016 UConn.