The roller-coast like ride that was the Syracuse basketball season came to an end Sunday night in a 66-62 upset loss to the Marquette Golden Eagles in the NCAA Tournament's round of 32. The Golden Eagles (seeded No. 11 in the East Region) earned a trip to the Sweet 16, a place SU went to the past two years, for the first time since 2003.
Marquette earned its victory Sunday the same way they did on Jan. 29. The Golden Eagles attacked SU's 2-3 zone with penetrating guards that forced the Orange to commit personal fouls, which led to a lot of Marquette free-throw attempts that they made (19-of. Then on defense, the Golden Eagles were in the Orange player's faces all night, which led to too many turnovers (18) that wouldn't allow SU to pull away.
Kudos to Marquette head coach Buzz Williams who did an excellent job of preparing his players, who executed the Golden Eagles game plan extremely well. They were the best team on the court Sunday night and the final score backs that up.
It's tough to see senior forward Rick Jackson's steady Orange career come to end. According to the SU atheltic website, "Today’s contest marked Rick Jackson’s 143rd career game played, which ties his for second in program history with Derrick Coleman. He added seven points, four rebounds and three steals."
Jackson finished the season averaging double-double per game (13.3 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game). The 6-foot-9 bean poll (that's now) built out of muscle will go down as one of those stories fans tell their grand kids about.
"(Head coach) Jim Boeheim and (associate head coach) Bernie Fine were such great developers of talent. Look at Hakim Warrick or Rick Jackson..." fans will say years from now after Jimmy B and Fine are long gone.
Jackson earned the Big East Defensive Player Of The Year and fell just short of earning All-Big East First Team honors (Jackson was named to the second team). The Philadelphia native was easy to root for, but his collegiate development ended just one year too short (I think with one more year, he'd be a possible All-American candidate) which ended up being SU's downfall.
The lack of a go-to presence really hurt Syracuse this season and in the end it was the true reason for its conclusion. As much as I like that junior guard Scoop Jardine has the swagger to take the big shot (which he has made before) the odds just are not in SU's favor when the shot goes up.
For some reason, junior forward Kris Joseph's game didn't take the large leap that many thought it would. The 2010 Big East Sixth Man Of The Year finally was given the reins to SU's offense, but just wasn't that Wesley Johnson or Gerry McNamra-like player that fans thought he would be. Maybe, fans were just a year too early on Joseph. I guess, next year they will find out.
The progression of sophomore guard Brandon Triche was very nice to see. How much was his presence missed in the final minutes against Marquette is tough to judge. (I don't think it would have made much of a difference.) However, the fact that Triche produced a few, "Wow, this kid is really going to be special" moments was nice to witness. It's possible that he'll take the "go-to guy" step during the offseason.
There are much more things to get to when it comes to Syracuse's 2010-'11 campaign, but we can cover that in the upcoming days, weeks, ect. For now, just be thankful that No. 2-seeded Notre Dame will probably lose to No. 10 Florida State (they're down 54-40 with about eight minute to go) and the Orange wont be leading Sports Center come Monday morning.