Syracuse fans will have to brace themselves tonight for a barrage or replays and mentions of how the Orangemen were out-Smarted in the 1987 NCAA championship game.
Of course, the instant Indiana secured its Sweet 16 matchup against SU last Sunday, the name Keith Smart popped into every long-time Syracuse fan’s head. A quarter-century later Smart’s dagger-in-the-heart corner jumper continues to haunt citizens of Orange Nation.
I’ve covered SU basketball for 37 years and have followed the program since the days when Jim Boeheim was a gangly, bespectacled player who had the good sense of finding open spaces, so the double- and tripled-teamed Dave Bing would have a passing option.
And I still contend that ’86-87 team was the best SU hoops squad I’ve covered, definitely superior to the 2002-03 club that won the NCAA title.
You had General Sherman Douglas manning the point, Rony Seikaly at center and a rebounding machine named Derrick Coleman at power forward. Each of them went on to have successful NBA careers and are in the debate for positions on SU’s all-time starting five. Shooting guard Greg Monroe could fill it up consistently from beyond the arc and small forward Howard Triche was a scrappy, blue-collar-type player who had his moments. Stevie Thompson provided instant offense off the bench, and bruisers like Derek Brower and Rodney Walker could come in and bang the boards.
And that makes that loss to the Hoosiers all the more difficult for SU fans to swallow because this appeared to be one of those instances when the most talented team did not win.
I wish sportswriters and sportscasters would stop mis-using the word “avenge.” Do they really believe an SU victory in a Sweet Sixteen matchup will “avenge” a loss in a national championship game? If these teams were playing in the NCAA title game, I might agree, but not in this case. It reminded me of the time when the Bills were playing the Cowboys in a regular-season game after Dallas had defeated Buffalo in consecutive Super Bowls, and my fellow writers and broadcasters were talking about how the Bills were attempting to “avenge” those losses. Puh-lease.
Speaking of tonight’s game, I think it may be a bad matchup for Syracuse. I can see Hoosiers center Cody Zeller having a field day vs. Rakeem Christmas and Baye Moussa Keita.
The keys to an Orange victory, include:
· Five or six 3’s by James Southerland;
· Error-free ball-handling and some slashing baskets by Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche;
· A big-night from C.J. Fair, who has a height advantage and a matchup he can exploit;
· A superior defensive effort, in which SU clamps down on Indiana’s dangerous 3-point shooters and does a credible job of sagging back and denying Zeller the ball;
· At least a 70-percent success rate by Syracuse at the free throw line.
You can read more of my pre-game musings at www.rochesterhomepage.net
You know how the obnoxious John Sterling likes to spout, “Robbie Cano, don’t ya know?” Well, I have a spin-off of that phrase that relates to the 2013 Yankees: “Robbie Cano and I don’t know.” As in, who the heck are these imposters in pinstripes next to Robinson Cano? As I talk about in this week’s commentary on the baseball radio show I co-host on WYSL 1040 AM, these broken-down, ancient Yankees remind me a lot of the Yankees of the mid-1960s.
I’m picking the Washington Nationals to beat the California Angels in the World Series. Neither my Yankees or the Red Sox make the playoffs. In fact, each team will be battling to avoid the AL East basement.