Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Back in Boston, Syracuse Hoping for Replay of 2003
BOSTON — The last time Syracuse played NCAA Tournament games here, a guy named ‘Melo ended up leading them to a national championship in New Orleans.
This time around, the Orange are missing their only Melo, yet they hope to be cutting down the nets once again in The Big Easy.
“We’re trying to do the same thing,” Syracuse guard Dion Waiters said after scoring 13 points in No. 1 Syracuse’s 64-63 nail-biting win over No. 4 Wisconsin at TD Garden that was only cemented after Jordan Taylor missed a 3-point attempt and Josh Gasser’s follow jumper failed to go down in the final seconds.
“We got one more goal and that’s to get to New Orleans,” Waiters added. “We’re not done yet, but we gotta continue to move forward, continue to work hard and get ready for the next game.”
The Orange will play either Cincinnati or Ohio State Saturday in the Elite Eight and Waiters expressed a preference for the Big East foe that upset Syracuse in the Big East Tournament semifinals.
“I hope we play Cincinnati,” he said.
Despite continuing to play without 7-foot center Fab Melo throughout this NCAA Tournament run, the Orange took another step toward their first title since the Carmelo Anthony-led club won it all in 2003.
While that club had one superstar in Anthony, now part of a Knicks mini-resurgence under interim coach Mike Woodson, the current Syracuse team has no superstar.
Four players scored in double-figures: C.J. Fair had 15, Scoop Jardine 14, Waiters 13 and Brandon Triche 11.
“It’s always good when everyone’s scoring and doing a team effort because there’s not one person you can specifically guard,” Queens native James Southerland told SNY.tv.
Southerland recalled watching Syracuse’s Final Four run in 2003 but said he missed the team’s earlier games because “I was in school.”
“It was a battle but they pulled it out,” he said of winning the title over Kansas.
Waiters said he wasn’t paying much attention to Syracuse in 2003 when they won their only title under coach Jim Boeheim because he was too busy out playing in the park.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know about Syracuse in 2003,” Waiters said. “I was just a kid just going to every place shooting basketballs. I didn’t even know about college or Syracuse winning a national championship. I really started taking basketball seriously in 11th grade, 12th grade.”
Triche also doesn’t recall a whole lot of the 2003 team.
“I remember the Hakim Warrick dunk on Texas, I remember things like that,” he said. “But I wasn’t able to watch the championship game. I think I was on an AAU trip or something.”
Triche is a Syracuse native but has family in New Orleans and would love to get back there for the Final Four.
“That’s our goal, to get to the Final Four and win a national championship,” Triche said. “We’re definitely excited just to be in this situation. My family is from New Orleans so hopefully a lot of those guys get to come out and see me play.”
One more game, one more win and they can.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.