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Syracuse and Kansas Sport a History on the Basketball Hardwood

Posted on December 03, 2017 by Chris Kent
Hakim Warrick leaps to block the 3-point shot attempt of Michael Lee in the 2003 NCAA Championship game.

Hakim Warrick leaps to block the 3-point shot attempt of Michael Lee in the 2003 NCAA Championship game.

In one of the most thrilling finishes in NCAA championship game history, Syracuse beat Kansas 81-78 to clinch its’ first and only men’s basketball national title in school history in 2003. Hakim Warrick’s block of Michael Lee’s 3-point attempt with 1.5 seconds to play secured the title which became official when the Jayhawks’ ensuing possession resulted in a missed 3-pointer by senior guard Kirk Hinrich as time expired.

It was a euphoric moment in Orange history.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, in his 27th year at the helm at the time, won his first national title in his third trip to the championship game. Boeheim and the Orange had come up short in two prior championship games against Indiana in 1987 and Kentucky in 1996. The third time for Boeheim as head coach at Syracuse (he was an assistant coach on the school’s first Final Four team in 1975), proved to be the charm.

The two met again on Dec. 2 as they dueled in the Hoophall Miami Invitational at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla. where Kansas won 76-60. Both teams were 6-0 entering the game. Each school posted home wins over Texas Southern, Oakland, and Toledo in earlier rounds of this Invitational in November.

Since their ’03 title clash, there have been many changes in the college basketball landscape. Conference realignment has dominated among the six power conferences and both schools have been impacted by this. The Orange left The Big East after the 2012-13 season to join the Atlantic Coast Conference in the summer of 2013. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks have welcomed in such teams as West Virginia to the Big 12. We’ve had mid-major teams like George Mason (2006), Butler (2010, ’11), and Virginia Commonwealth (’11) make The Final Four with Butler finishing as the national runner-up in both 2010 and ’11.

Yet despite these changes, some things have remained the same. You need to look no further than these two storied programs for

Current Syracuse Assistant Coach Gerry McNamara thrilled Syracuse fans with his clutch play over his four years which peaked in the 2006 Big East Tournament.

Current Syracuse Assistant Coach Gerry McNamara thrilled Syracuse fans with his clutch play over his four years which peaked in the 2006 Big East Tournament.

proof of that. Since cutting down the nets in ‘03, Syracuse has been among the nation’s premier programs. The Orange won back-to-back Big East Tournament Championships in 2005 and 2006, the later one highlighted by one of the most clutch four-day performances in postseason conference tournament history by legendary guard Gerry McNamara, currently an assistant coach for Syracuse.

McNamara’s theatrics in that tournament will forever be remembered. He nailed a game-winning 3-pointer with just a half second left to beat Cincinnati in the opening round, 74-73. The next day in the quarterfinals against top-seeded and top-ranked Connecticut, McNamara buried a game-tying 3-pointer with 5.6 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, a game the Orange won 86-84. Syracuse then beat Georgetown and Pittsburgh behind more clutch shooting and play en route to the tourney title. McNamara was the unanimous winner of the Dave Gavitt Trophy as the tournament’s most valuable player. The Orange have also been a national presence over recent years with two trips in four seasons to The Final Four as they appeared in 2013 and 2016 before falling in the national semifinals each year.

Aside from these highly successful teams, Syracuse has garnered much recognition with Boeheim receiving national coach of the year honors in 2010 from the Associated Press, The National Association of Basketball Coaches, and the United States Basketball Writers Association. Also in 2010, junior forward Wes Johnson was named the Big East Player of the Year when he helped the Orange win a school record 28 regular-season games. National rankings have also spotlighted Syracuse in multiple seasons since that memorable ’03 title run. During the 2009-10 season, the Orange did not fall out of the top 10 from Nov. 23 on in either the AP or USA Today/ESPN Poll.

Jim Boeheim has been at Syracuse since 1962.

Jim Boeheim has been at Syracuse since 1962.

Syracuse was a top-25 team all season long in the 2010-11 campaign. During the 2011-12 season, the Orange were ranked no lower than fifth all season long and spent six consecutive weeks ranked number one in the country in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN Polls. Syracuse’s inaugural season in the ACC was met with a bang as they stormed out to a school-record 25-0 start before suffering its’ first loss of the season which came at home to Boston College on Feb. 19, 2014. The Orange were ranked in the top 10 nearly the whole season in both major polls and enjoyed a three-week stay ranked as the nation’s number one team in February of 2014.

All of that national prominence by Syracuse has been mirrored by the Jayhawks over the last 14 seasons. Since his inaugural season as head coach of the Jayhawks in 2003-04, Bill Self has lead Kansas to 12-straight regular season Big 12 Championships, a remarkable feat. In addition he has taken the Jayhawks to seven Elite Eights, two Final Fours, and guided Kansas to victory in the 2008 NCAA Championship game over Memphis.

The 2017 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee is also the reigning Big 12 Coach of the Year which he has been honored with five times. Self, who entered the game against the Orange with a 422-88 career record with the Jayhawks, has received numerous other coaching honors including three national coach of the year awards in 2016 which came from the NABC, AP, and USA Today.

Kansas players like Wayne Simien, Sherron Collins, Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Cole Aldrich, Darnell Jackson, Markieff and Marcus Morris, Xavier Henry, Wayne Selden Jr., Thomas Robinson, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Ben McLemore, Cheick Diallo, Cliff Alexander, Tarik Black, Jeff Withey, Perry Ellis, Kelly Oubre Jr., Frank Mason III, and Josh Jackson have come and gone through Allen Fieldhouse with most of them now in the NBA. Year in and year out the Jayhawks are always at the top of the Big 12 seeking another conference title and battling for a likely number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. What Self has done in succeeding Roy Williams in Lawrence is one of the best runs of sustained excellence that we have ever seen in college basketball history.

Typically ranked in the preseason poll, Kansas makes a habit of staying ranked throughout the season. The Jayhawks are a consistent national power and a program that has stood the test of time throughout the history of college basketball. From legendary head coaches like Dr. James A. Naismith – known as “The Father of Basketball”, Phog Allen, and Larry Brown to Roy Williams and Self, the Jayhawks sport one of the game’s elite heritages that is full of prestige and fame.

With both of these schools sporting historical profiles that rival some of the top programs ever to grace the hardwood, their current

Mario Chalmers knocked down this epic 3-pointer to force overtime where Kansas went on to beat Memphis in the 2008 NCAA Championship Game.

Mario Chalmers knocked down this epic 3-pointer to force overtime where Kansas went on to beat Memphis in the 2008 NCAA Championship Game.

meeting is a marquee matchup. As the 2017-18 season moves into December, both teams are similar in that they lost significant production off of last year’s teams and will be looking to some talented youth to emerge. While Kansas was a one seed last year in the NCAA Tournament and reached its’ second straight Elite Eight where they were beaten by Oregon, Syracuse was relegated to the NIT where its’ season ended in the second round to Ole Miss. The Orange finished the 2016-17 season 19-15, the most losses it has had in a season since the 1968-69 team finished 9-16 under first-year head coach Roy Danforth who preceded Boeheim as head coach.

The Jayhawks, 31-5 and 14-2 a year ago, lost Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson off of last year’s team to the NBA. Mason III lead Kansas with 20.9 points per game and 5.2 assists per game while Jackson added 16.3 ppg. and was second on the team with 7.4 rebounds per game. Landen Lucas also departed and leaves behind 8.0 ppg. and a team best 8.3 rpg.

The Jayhawks return experience in the backcourt where senior guard Devonte’ Graham is complemented by senior Sviatslav Mykhailiuk and junior Lagerald Vick. Graham is a two-year starter and eclipsed the 1,000 career point mark last season, becoming the 59th player in school history to do so. Graham started all 36 games a season ago and was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team. In addition, Graham made multiple 3-pointers in all but three Big 12 games and in 28 games overall as a junior. Mykhailiuk made three or more shots from beyond the arc in 11 games with four or more treys in four outings as a junior.

So far this season, Mykhailiuk is averaging 18.2 ppg. to lead the team and is one of five Kansas players averaging double-figures scoring. Udoka Azubuike, a 7-foot sophomore center, scores 16.0 ppg. and grabs 6.7 rpg. while Vick and Graham each add 15.8 ppg. Redshirt sophomore guard Malik Newman scores 13.5 ppg. The Jayhawks also are supported by freshman guard Marcus Garrett who pulls down a team best 7.2 rpg. and adds 6.7 ppg. Mykhailiuk is the team’s main threat from the 3-point line where he shoots 22-for-39, good for 56.4 percent.

While Kansas has an excellent perimeter game with guys like Mykhailiuk and Graham, Syracuse is unproven from the perimeter compared to recent years. The Orange are absent of 3-point mainstays such as James Southerland, Trevor Cooney, Michael Gbinije, Andrew, White III, and John Gillon. While they don’t have a high volume shooter this season like those from that group, the trifecta will still come into play for Syracuse.

Tyus Battle has a strong all-around game and leads Syracuse with 19.7 ppg.

Tyus Battle has a strong all-around game and leads Syracuse with 19.7 ppg.

Sophomore guard Tyus Battle – the team’s best player – shoots a team best 36.7 percent from behind the arc but has only 30 attempts so far this season. Battle is a capable 3-point shooter for the Orange but is more valuable to them with his penetration game and moves off the dribble. Junior guard Frank Howard is the team’s point guard this year and has already made strides in his game as reflected by his team-leading 6.0 assists per game to go with his 15.7 ppg., up from his per-game averages of 3.6 and 4.5 respectively a season ago. Battle leads the team with 19.7 ppg.

Syracuse is long and tall in the frontcourt this year with several new faces. Oshae Brissett, a 6-8 freshman forward, leads the Orange with 9.8 rpg. while 7-2 junior center Paschal Chukwu is a shot-blocking presence. Chukwu records 3.0 blocks per game, scores 5.5 ppg., and adds in 5.7 rpg. Redshirt sophomore Matt Moyer brings his 6-8 frame to lend impact to Boeheim’s well-known 2-3 zone. Moyer has started all six games for Syracuse and scores 2.8 ppg. to go with 4.5 rpg. Freshman forwards Bourama Sidibe (5.7 ppg., 4.7 rpg.) and Marek Dolezaj (5.8 ppg., 6.8 rpg.) stand 6-10 and 6-9 respectively adding further length and height to the frontcourt making the 2-3 zone difficult to penetrate.

This new group for Syracuse will have to help replace the production lost from a quartet of players that the Orange lost from last year’s team. The starting backcourt of White III (18.5) and Gillon (10.5) took 29 ppg. with them while Gillon also dished out a team-best 5.4 apg. Also lost is the 13.2 ppg. and team-leading 8.6 rpg. of Tyler Lydon who declared early for the NBA Draft after his sophomore year and was selected by the Denver Nuggets. Center Dajuan Coleman and forward Taurean Thompson were also lost and took 9.2 and 5.6 ppg. with them respectively. Both Coleman (4.8) and Thompson (3.8) also leave a rebounding void.

While this was scheduled to be the 42nd and final year for Boeheim as head coach of his alma mater, that changed last offseason when his associate head coach of 22 years, Mike Hopkins, was named the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Washington last March. In June of 2015, Hopkins had been named Men’s Basketball Head Coach Designate by Syracuse University in 2015. However that changed when he accepted the offer at Washington earlier this year. Boeheim thus extended his contract to remain the head coach of the Orange beyond the 2017-18 season.

Boeheim and Self are two of the premier coaches in the country and their basketball programs are among the nation’s elite. The

Bill Self has lead Kansas to 12 straight Big 12 Conference Regular Season Championships.

Bill Self has lead Kansas to 12 straight Big 12 Conference Regular Season Championships.

Jayhawks have been on the cusp of reaching The Final Four each of the last two seasons while Syracuse was there twice over four seasons between the 2012-13 and 2015-16 seasons.

Besides the meeting for the ’03 national championship there is a competitive history between these two schools. The Orange leads the all-time series 3-2 and has won the last two meetings. Syracuse won 89-81 in overtime in the 2008 O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic title game played at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. which was the last time these two teams played. The teams have met a total of three times in the NCAA Tournament with the Orange leading 2-1. Syracuse punched its’ ticket to the 1996 Final Four with a 60-57 win over Kansas in Denver in the West Regional Championship game. The Jayhawks posted their lone NCAA Tournament win over the Orange in 2001 with an 87-58 win in the second round of the Midwest Regional in Dayton, Ohio.

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