Sunday, April 06, 2003

It's safe to say that Kansas is going to be an overwhelming favorite tomorrow night. Humiliating a talented Marquette team, right after a pair of clutch wins over Duke and Arizona, leads one to the conclusion that Syracuse is going to have a lot of problems just staying competitive. On top of that, the Orangemen will be attempting to come out of nowhere to win the NCAA tournament, something that almost never happens. The last time a school won the championship without appearing in the Sweet Sixteen the year before was UCLA in 1995; Syracuse didn't even appear in last year's dance, and no team since Louisville in 1986 has done that.

FWIW, I'll be pulling for Jim Boeheim, a coach who made the cover of The National sportspaper in 1991 as "the worst coach in college basketball", then proceeded to lose the following night to No.15 seed Richmond; The National went defunct soon afterward, but Jim Boeheim is still here, and is now viewed as one of the best tacticians in the game. Clearly, the line of demarkation in his career came in 1995, when a mediocre Syracuse team took defending national champion Arkansas to overtime before losing, a game I will always remember as having been played at the same time as the UCLA-Missouri second round game (the "Tyus Edney Game"). Before then, the Orangemen always had a team of budding superstars, but no chemistry, and were predictable underachievers. Battling the way they did against the Razorbacks, losing only after they pulled a C-Web late and called a time-out they didn't have, presaged their run the following year, when John Wallace and a collection of nobodies stormed to the finals. Boeheim's teams play smart, aggressive basketball, with one of the most famous zones in the sport, and are fun to watch.


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