Syracuse moves within one game of its fifth Final Four appearance.
When the NCAA college basketball brackets were announced a few weeks ago, a good many basketball experts were surprised to find Syracuse among the entries into the tournament. The Orange had just lost in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) tournament, in which they were seeded ninth after going 9-9, giving them five losses in their final six games.
But despite having the lowest RPI of any at-large team ever invited to the Dance, the Orange were indeed in the field, pegged a 10-seed, and slated to face seven-seed Dayton in the opening round of the Midwest Regional.
Then Syracuse set out to prove they were worthy of being invited, thrashing Dayton 70-51 in the first round, and them continuing their dominance over Middle Tennessee State 75-50, to reach the Sweet Sixteen.
The journey marched on as last night, Syracuse and Coach Jim Boeheim eked out a thrilling 63-60 win over former Cinderella and 11-seed Gonzaga, as forward Tyler Lydon blocked the Zags final shot, sending the Orange to the Elite Eight, one game away from the Final Four in Houston next weekend.
But Syracuse doesn’t fit the typical role of Cinderella. First off, most teams considered Cinderellas don’t play in the major conferences, particularly the always-strong ACC. And most typical Cinderellas don’t have a sure-to-be Hall of Fame coach with almost 1,000 wins to his credit already.
As Lydon said after the win over Gonzaga, “I don’t think too many teams that have won a national championship can be called a Cinderella.”
The road ahead gets even tougher, as it should as a team advances through the 68-team field. The Orange must face conference foe Virginia on Sunday for the right to advance to the semi-finals. The Cavaliers defeated Syracuse 73-65 on Virginia’s home court back in January, the only meeting between the two this season.
Syracuse won it all in 2003, taking an 81-78 win over Kansas in New Orleans for the championship, and giving Boeheim his only NCAA title in four Final Four appearances, though he finished runner-up on two occasions, in 1987 and 1996.
Just don’t call them a Cinderella, because of their 10-seed upset wins. The Orange have been to the tournament 31 times before, and that may just be enough to carry them through, with or without the glass slipper.
Editor’s note: Syracuse upset top-seeded Virginia on Sunday to reach the Final Four, overcoming a 15-point deficit with 9:32 left in the game, to solidify the win. The Orange will face the only remaining number one seed, North Carolina, in the second game on Saturday night.