Three of my Final Four picks are in. Villanova, North Carolina and Oklahoma all made it in and you can go back and research it on our blog and you will see I correctly picked them before the tournament. I did not have Syracuse. I did not have Syracuse making it to the Sweet Sixteen. I did not have them beating Gonzaga. I sure did not have them beating Virginia. I not only didn’t have them beating Virginia, I thought UVA would blow them out. And they did. But not for 40 minutes.
Syracuse came back from 16 points down in the second half. Did UVA choke? Yes. But just like Northern Iowa choked in the last 35 seconds against Texas A&M, the opposition has to help in the choke. If A&M gives up, which they would have been justified in doing, there is no choke. The Orange had to make the play to take advantage of the choke. Also, when your last two opponents both choke the game away, the one common denominator is you. Gonzaga had the Orange on the ropes and blew it also. But the Orange helped.
How astonishing is this Syracuse team making the Final Four? It’s 11 on a scale to 10 astonishing. This team just had to vacate over 100 wins and sit out the postseason last year because of NCAA infractions. It’s hard to get recruits to come to your school when they know there is no NCAA Tournament in the near future. It’s also hard to get the current players to focus, or not to transfer.
So understandably, Syracuse was not up to the usual Syracuse standards this year. They finished 9-9 in ACC play and bowed out immediately to another 9-9 team in the first round of the ACC Tournament against Pitt. Many felt that Cuse did not even belong in the NCAA Tournament over teams like St. Mary’s or Monmouth or Valparaiso. Does a middle of the pack power conference team deserve the invite over a mid-major with a great record? That was the question.
Well, the Orange answered it. Does anyone really think Monmouth or Valpo would be in the Final Four? None of those three teams mentioned even made it to the Final Four of the NIT.
Will the Orange win the National Championship? I would like to say no, but I had Michigan State winning it all, and Syracuse won that region. So at this point, I would not put it past them.