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Syracuse men’s basketball rewatch: Observations from 2004 NCAA Tournament win over BYU

Let’s discuss Syracuse-BYU from present day.

BYU v Syracuse Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Today we continue along with our Syracuse men’s basketball rewatch series. We initially recapped Syracuse’s win over BYU in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. If you missed the introduction to this series, click here for more information.

Okay, so we took the TNIAAM time machine back to 2004 to cover the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team’s opening round NCAA Tournament win over the BYU Cougars. But now we’re back to present day to talk about that game in hindsight.

In case you missed it and want to sap the production out of your work day, here’s an embed to the game on YouTube. Thanks to James Powers for uploading this game:

A few thoughts here as the game opens up, the first which should be in sarcasm font: Is this in high-def? The picture quality gives a sense of just how long ago this game was. It’s hard to believe it was 17 years ago, but the weird looking Otto, sideline monitors that look like this, an NCAA Tournament theme song of Are You Gonna Be My Girl by Jet along with Mike Hopkins’s full head of hair really help you understand that this was indeed the year 2004. If you were just looking at Jim Boeheim and his reactions towards the refs after calls that went against Syracuse, you’d assume it was just last year.

Now, on to more practical matters.

Obviously the win was important as Syracuse avoided the dreaded 12-seed upset over the five-seed, which seems to happen every year. There were two 12-seed upsets in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament as Pacific beat Providence and Manhattan took down Florida. The then Orangemen avoided such fate and would eventually make the Sweet 16 after beating Maryland in the Second Round.

The game stands out in memory given Syracuse was coming off a run to the National Championship, but also because of the 11-point comeback and Gerry McNamara carrying Syracuse with 43 points that only added to his legend at SU and heroics in the NCAA Tournament.

Syracuse fans were on the edge of their seat as BYU looked to put the game out of reach in the first half by getting out to an 11-point lead. Hakim Warrick, Syracuse’s leading scorer on the season, was on the bench with three fouls and third leading scorer Josh Pace was struggling.

BYU v Syracuse Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Enter McNamara, who rallied on the offensive end as Jim Boeheim came out of the 2-3 zone to play man. We obviously haven’t seen the latter move in some time and it does make you wonder whether it would be beneficial to come out of the zone every now and again. Syracuse even went to a press in the early going (with the lead, no less), which seems unconventional from a 2021 vantage.

Anyway, McNamara somehow finds a way to tie the game at 42 going into the half and Syracuse fans were probably feeling pretty good about that given Warrick’s first half foul trouble.

Warrick avoided picking up a fourth foul for the rest of the game. Momentum shifted in Syracuse’s favor when BYU’s 6-foot-11 big man Rafael Araujo picked up his fourth foul early in the second and was forced to sit. Syracuse went on a quick 6-0 run on 3s from Demetris Nichols and McNamara.

Things went from bad to worse for BYU as their three bigs had four fouls each with 10 minutes left to play. This game was obviously during an era where college basketball centers were large, bruising big men that cared about rebounding, scoring on the low block and pushing inferior beings out of the way with their largeness. Essentially they were giant sacks of meat that proved their manhood by pushing others around, grabbing rebounds and scoring over their left shoulders. Slender bigs with range and mobility were non-existent during this time in college hoops. Trying to imagine Marek Dolezaj competing against a guy like Araujo seems silly.

Getting back on track, BYU eventually overcomes their foul trouble and erases the nine point deficit. Not only do they get to within striking distance, but the Cougars actually reclaim the lead on an Araujo tip-slam with 3:23 remaining. It feels like BYU is going to take control of the game, but Warrick comes down on the next play and gives the lead right back to Syracuse. They don’t give up the lead again the rest of the way.

Still, it felt like a very losable game for Syracuse as SU led by two and with only 20 seconds left, Warrick left BYU senior Bigalow wide open for a three but he missed and McNamara goes 3-4 from the free throw line late to seal it.

Syracuse and McNamara played well enough offensively to earn the win, but they also dodged a bullet or two on the defensive end and the weird Otto did a jig (with a flex).

DENVER, COLORADO (03-18-04) Otto the Orange, the mascot of the Syracuse Orangemen warmed up in the halls before the second game at the Pepsi Center Thursday. Syracuse beat BYU 80 to 75 Thursday afternoon. Denver Post Photo by Karl Gehring. Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images


I took very serious game notes during the rewatch as if the game were live because I’m a capital J like that. If you’re interested in reading said game notes, they’ve been listed below:

Game notes

  • Is this high def?
  • Hakim dunks were... sheesh
  • Very curious that Syracuse is playing in the Pepsi Center with Carmelo Anthony starring for the Denver Nuggets. Hmm
  • Defense chants for BYU initially
  • Who the hell is Steve Cleveland?
  • Syracuse goes press at 17:05 with the lead. Wut.
  • I’m not sure if BYU big man Rafael Araujo knows, at any point, that Syracuse is playing zone but it doesn’t seem to matter. He’s out there posting up like an intramural center that’s just bigger than everyone else. But even against the zone it’s working
  • Gerry gives no sh*ts. He’s pulling up in transition with two defenders on him and making shots
  • Jeremy McNeil blocks shots just as you remember them
  • McNamara’s defense in the zone is a little suspect. He gives Lemes two 3s, one by going under a screen and another by getting screened on a ball reversal
  • BYU has a player named Mark Bigelow and all I can think of is Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo

- This is just five years after the movie Deuce Bigalow was released. Think of all the weird memes and twitter references that could’ve been made. Much Keeley potential there

  • The photographers are stationed diagonal along the baseline. Why don’t we do this today? It makes so much sense
  • Those Syracuse warmups were dope
  • For some reason I can’t help but think young GMac looks like a young Mac Miller. I’m probably going to get crushed for this, but now I can’t unsee Gerry Mac Miller
  • McNamara was such an underrated cutter. Very good at reading the defense off the screen and cutting backdoor on the overplay
  • Have to love running the offense for McNamara, but an impatient Craig Forth bricks a free throw line jumper as McNamara is still coming off a down screen. That’s the Syracuse offense we’ve come to know
  • The Gerry chants!

- Remember when Syracuse fans would cheer Gerry! Gerry! Gerry! as if they were at a Jerry Springer screening?

  • Having Are You Gonna Be My Girl by Jet as the NCAA Tournament theme song is peak 2004 energy
  • At multiple times Billy Packer (RIP) suggests BYU should go box-and-one on McNamara with Warrick in foul trouble. He’s still not wrong
  • Pace lefty bank shots.. yes
  • Game tenor changed when Araujo picked up his fourth foul
  • Warrick blocks were insane and made no sense
  • Boeheim emotional reactions are the same then as they are now. Amazing
  • Remember when it was CBSSportsLine dot com? What a terrible domain name
  • Gerry actually didn’t come up clutch initially, which is hard to fathom given all the clutch shots he hit throughout his career
  • Bigelow was wide open on that last look. Warrick fell asleep
  • Boeheim’s snark after the win was classic Boeheim