Tonight's Game: Why A Syracuse Fan Should Watch

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By Matt McClusky

So you’re a Syracuse Orange men’s basketball fan? I’m guessing that you’re still trying to collect yourself after the Orange went down in defeat to Michigan, 61–56 in the national semifinals on Saturday.

You’re probably still upset, maybe even a little confused as to how it all went wrong against the Wolverines, and you’re left waiting for the college basketball season to start back up again in November. But the thing is - the season isn’t over just yet.

There is actually one more game to play. The national championship - 9:21 tip time Monday night on WWNY 7News – pitting Louisville, the top overall seed for the tourney, against those very Wolverines that stopped Syracuse short just two days before. Why on Earth would any self-respecting Orange fan watch a game that A) Syracuse could have easily been playing in and B) a game that Syracuse could win, you ask?

Well consider this the Syracuse Fan’s Guide to the National Championship game!

Why should you watch? Let’s start with an easy one: It’s going to be a great game. The Cardinals, after just barely avoiding disaster against Wichita State to advance to their first title game since 1986, will deploy their frantic pressure defense to try and disrupt the seemingly unflappable Wolverines.

You’ve got two contrasting styles - one best described as hare, the other not quite tortoise but close, and just one court – providing a large board for chess masters Rick Pitino and John Beilein. In white will be pieces like future pro Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, Big East tournament MVP, and in the dark uniforms will be national Player of the Year Trey Burke and big man Mitch McGary.

Plus, Orange fans, if you’re feeling a little nostalgic for the glory days of the Big East conference that’s on its last legs, there is more than enough reason to watch. This July the Big East, Syracuse’s home for the last 33 years, will forever be something different, with “basketball-only” schools splitting off and taking the conference name. (The “football schools” will be in a league called American Athletic Conference, and Syracuse and Notre Dame are bolting to the Atlantic Coast Conference.) So a Cardinals title could be one last good memory for the once mighty league.

Also if you’re into conference loyalty there’s another reason to root for the Cardinals: Louisville will be joining Syracuse and the other Big East defectors in the ACC come 2014. So a U of L win is either a win for the Big East or the ACC, or both.

But it’s not that you have to root against Michigan, even if it is the team that ended Syracuse’s remarkable run. Consider: Michigan hasn’t won a title since 1989. Its last time in the Sweet 16 was 1994. (Well, actually that’s not really true, as the famous “Fab Five” Wolverines reached the championship game in ’92 and ’93, but the NCAA took away those appearances due to rules violations.) So despite the cache in name, fight song, and colors, Michigan hasn’t had success in March in a long time. Also, Beilein, a Western New York native who’s coached at Le Moyne and Canisius and has been a head coach for over three decades, is seeking his first title.

Not to mention should Michigan win, it would put a stop to the endless stream of stories on Kevin Ware, the Cardinals' emotional leader who broke his leg in the Elite Eight against Duke. It’s an inspirational story about a good kid who had a tough break (literally) and has handled it all wonderfully. Yet, a lot of hoops fans, Syracuse’s included, may be nearing the tipping point on the coverage of Ware’s story. Of course, Ware is reason enough for some people to align themselves, if only for one night, with Louisville.

Still not convinced you should watch, Orange fans? Well, just remember, the next time you’ll be able to catch a real live game, any game at all, will be November. Because after tonight, the season really will be over.
 

Saturday, September 20, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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