Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened: SU's strong run stopped by Duke
How many people outside central New York thought the Syracuse Orange would make the NCAA Tournament?
How many in Central New York did?
The answer is not many.
Undeterred, the Orange wouldn't have any of it. The end result? One of the most memorable seasons in Syracuse Basketball.
I know what you're thinking — hold the phone — this program has enjoyed several Final Fours, Conference Tournament titles and even that National Title in 2003.
I'm not comparing the Sweet 16 run of 2018 to that championship, not quite. I'm simply saying if you're a Syracuse fan, you have to be proud of this team.
No two ways about it.
I've often told friends I believed the heroics of Gerry McNamara to lead Syracuse to the 2006 Big East Tournament Title was right up there for me with the National Title. It was so unexpected and required the greatest in human spirit (G MAC) to make it happen. It didn't bring home the same hardware on the same stage but the individual performance was just out of this world. The most inspirational stuff you'll ever see.
That's why 2018 is so memorable.
Syracuse Basketball lost probably its second-best scoring option in Taurean Thompson before the fall semester even started. That shouldn't be lost on anyone. That was a huge blow for this team.
Any experience behind Frank Howard and Tyus Battle at the guard spot was lost when Geno Thorpe left the team right before the game with Kansas in Miami. Talk about timing. From there, many thought the Orange wouldn't make the dance. And when all recruited guard depth was lost with Howard Washington's injury even more jumped off the bandwagon.
Yet, like McNamara defying the odds in 2006, this scrappy and heart-filled Orange team took it all in stride. Like a kid dodging snowballs in a battle at Sunnycrest Hill, the Orange found a way to will its way to NCAA Tournament position.
Surely though, according to people considered experts, they'd never make the tournament. And if they did, they'd meet their match in the play-in game.
The Orange heard it. It sat right there as a chip on their shoulder. It was the perfect storm and story. The team that dodged every obstacle just had another one in their way.
They practiced for it all season, overcoming it again was just another day at the office.
Like Michael Gbinije said in 2016 "Thank you for the motivation." The line could have been uttered by this year's team just as easily. Motivated by adversity. Motivated by doubts. Motivated by their dreams.
Syracuse never doubted themselves for a minute.
So when fans look back on 2018, it should be in the same rare air as the top-tier tournament runs.
Not because of any flashy trophy, but because of the grit and determination they showed to make it this far.
Like a hearty central New Yorker just fighting through the cold and snow of another rough winter, the Orange powered its way through to the pedestal of the Sweet 16.
There's a lot of central New York toughness in a team primarily full of players from around the country and world for that matter.
That's why this team was so easy to rally behind. They represented so many of you.
Against the odds, against the doubts of people outside the region. They thrived.
So be proud of this team for years to come and just remember..
Next year, there's a top 10 recruiting class coming aboard.