As I sit here on Championship Monday, I'm exhausted and a bit disappointed at the same time. I keep thinking to myself if one of a few different plays for Syracuse went differently against Michigan, the emotion could be completely different; one of utter excitement for a potential National Championship.
Instead, the mindset is that of covering two other teams battling it out - teams that SU fans are not fond of at the moment, if ever, Michigan and Louisville.
For the first time in this whirlwind of the past month, I'm actually able to reflect on this run as opposed to thinking about SU basketball and all the angles to cover 24/7.
From New York City to San Jose to Washington D.C. and now in Atlanta, it's crazy to think about all the travel in the last month.
It's also hard to think that a month ago Tuesday, the Orange were hammered by Georgetown 61-39.
I remember the week following that game as I prepared to head to New York to cover the Big East Tournament that I was telling my loved ones, and even management here at CNY Central, that I would probably be home by the weekend.
Remember, SU had lost four out of its last five games, including that tough one to Georgetown.
I knew SU had the tools to make a deep run, but we hadn't seen it click just yet.
Then, came that Seton Hall game on the Wednesday of the Big East Tournament. The Pirates raced to an early double digit lead, and that almost seemed like a wake up call. Suddenly, the shots were falling. The defense was stifling.
The Orange was back.
So many people say that it was the Big East Tournament in general that woke SU up, and that's true. More specifically though, it was that moment late in the first half when James Southerland hit a three that SU's destiny for a run into April was sealed.
It seems like ages ago, but the atmosphere at MSG was second-to-none. There was so much surrounding that tournament since it was "the last one" and there was just something in the air. Eventually, of course, Syracuse would run out of steam in the title game against Louisville.
But what will everyone remember from that tournament?
The fact that Syracuse exacted revenge on Georgetown one last time, and the Hoyas spiraled out of the NCAA Tournament losing to Florida Gulf Coast in the first round. I remember seeing the sign "The Rivalry Is Officially Closed." It's a moment I'll never forget.
Even with that Big East Tournament run, the majority of hoops fans didn't have SU in the Final Four. The bracket draw wasn't a gauntlet or anything, just the Final Four seemed so mythical after a 10 year absence.
It was kind of neat to be sent to what is an "exotic" place for Central New Yorkers - San Jose, California - for the first weekend of the dance. It was also my first NCAA Tournament experience in person.
What I'll remember about San Jose was the beautiful weather and palm trees. It was kind of an oasis in the middle of an extended Central New York winter. The food was fantastic and for the first time ever, I was able to catch a glimpse of the mighty Pacific.
I'll remember watching in awe as Syracuse beat Montana 81-34, and I'll remember watching with anger as a local San Jose sportscaster in a brazen fashion proclaimed on TV the next night that he'd bet his paycheck that California would beat Syracuse.
And then, I watched with absolute pleasure as SU's 2-3 zone stymied the Bears and sent Syracuse to the Sweet 16.
Hope no one took him up on that bet.
The flight to and from California was long, but when you're able to come home for even a couple days in between trips it's well worth it.
From there it was off to Washington D.C. with Alex Dunbar. My first feeling when I got into the Verizon Center was how weird it was to see the Georgetown "G" everywhere.
Even the "media shuttle" was an enormous Georgetown Hoyas bus. I actually felt like I shouldn't step foot on it. Please don't hold it against me that I did get on it!
Equally as odd, was seeing John Thompson Jr. (the first coach) watching SU practice on his court. It was there, he surprisingly told me he was pulling for the Orange.
As for the Sweet 16 game, Indiana brought swarms of media and fans alike. All of them were shocked (at least those I saw during the game) when SU dominated the Hoosiers from start to finish.
It was fun to enlighten the Indiana reporter next to our seats that Michael Carter-Williams was most likely going to be a lottery pick and to hear that same person complaining to other media about how "bad" Indiana was playing.
They weren't playing bad. They just ran into a team on a mission.
There are certain times you see magic with a team. It just seems like they can do no wrong. See Florida Gulf Coast in the first two rounds, see Syracuse in 2003. That's what the Orange had in Washington. It was destiny that they made it to the Final Four.
How, then, did a team in Marquette who sees the 2-3 zone every year get utterly baffled by it. How then, did they only muster 39 points?
What I'll take from Washington was watching amazing Orange basketball; the best in years, perhaps. The scene of seeing SU cut down the nets a mere 20 feet away from me was awesome, thereâ??s no other way to describe it. As a lifelong Syracuse resident, that is why I enjoy my job so much. That's why you enjoy covering a team, to see those moments.
Later, as I recorded some reports on the court for â??Weekend In Central New York,â?? the Verizon Center workers were breaking down the arena in preparation for WWE Raw that was scheduled to come in a couple days later. I noticed, as you will if you look at pictures, that bits of the net were still in the rim. The last remnants after the East Region Champion cut down the rest of those nets.
I asked a Verizon Center worker if I could take home one of those loops, since the rim was already on the floor and he agreed without hesitation. Now, I'll always have a keepsake from such a memorable run. Personally, it was memorable because the first NCAA Tournament I covered live saw SU make the Final Four.
But for all of us, because this team showed us something. It showed us, that anything is possible.
Think about the excitement all of us had this week. Buying t-shirts and making arrangements to watch the game somewhere with family and friends. It's a one of a kind experience.
My time in Atlanta isn't done just yet, but it feels like it's been a blur.
It was a completely different feel watching and recording the open practice here as opposed to the first two sites. And of course, getting stuck in traffic for two hours, six hours before a game? Where else can you see that?
Atlanta is a very nice city, and the Georgia Dome is a neat domed venue for basketball, although not as intimate or as awesome as the Carrier Dome.
All the reports of a month on the road are merged into one in my mind. Going completely against what the famous sports reporter Lesley Visser told me on Saturday.
She told me to make a memory and make sure this isn't all a blur from the enormous workload all journalists here in Atlanta have.
It may still be a blur, but I have plenty of memories.
Memories that I'll never forget. Memories that I hope my reports enhanced for all of you in Central New York.