BOSTON – The pain was in the faces of two seniors who had just left the court, one step short of the Final Four.
"The loss hurts," Jardine said with glazed eyes fighting back tears. "But me not playing with these guys for the rest of my life is going to hurt even more."
Joseph wasn't ready to think about it all being over. With a towel covering his head, he was overcome with emotion. When he finally could collect his thoughts, he said it with a tremble in his voice.
"It's tough. It's real tough knowing that my career is over and that I won't play with these guys again."
Reflecting on this season, you could argue that his year's Orange were the closest of families. To overcome the obstacles thrown their way through the season, they stuck together and plowed through to a 30-2 regular season. At the beginning of the year Coach Jim Boeheim said simply, "We'll go as far as these seniors take us." Well, they took SU to its winningest season ever, and leave SU with the most wins of any players to wear Orange.
"They've just had an unbelievable career, really, these guys," Coach Boeheim said reflecting on his on and off the court leaders. "I don't think you can give them enough credit for what Scoop and Kris have done."
Jardine came in to Syracuse as a self-described immature kid from Philadelphia, and as any college freshman tends to do, he struggled to adjust. Freshman year, he was accused along with Jonny Flynn and Rick Jackson of sexual assault. A grand jury later dropped the charges but just a few months later he stole a student's ID card to charge more than $100 worth of food. He was suspended two games and told to grow up. The growing up moment came in 2008, when he suffered a stress fracture in his shin that forced him to sit out the entire season. After a redshirt year, everything changed. He began showing up to 6:00am workouts, he pushed himself into shape, and slowly molded himself into a leader.
"He came to Syracuse as a boy, and he left a man," said Assistant Coach Mike Hopkins, who couldn't help but to keep checking on how Scoop was doing in the locker room after Saturday's loss to Ohio State. He was like a proud father of a hard-working son who had just lost a good fight.
After the season ending loss to Marquette last season, in which Jardine and Dion Waiters combined for a crucial backcourt violation that stole any chance of SU advancing past the round of 32 - this year, his senior year, was supposed to be his "redemption tour." He guided Syracuse to its 10th Big East Championship and earned All-Big East Second Team honors. In the tournament, he scored double-digit points in every game on the way to being named to the All-East Region Team. Final Four or not, Scoop's redemption has earned him a spot in Orange fans' hearts forever.
Joseph came to Syracuse with high expectations. Nicknamed "Air Montreal," the sky was thought to be the limit for the 6'7" forward. In just his sophomore season he was the Big East's 6th man of the year. When his time to start came in his junior year, many expected him to be the star. He delivered by leading SU in scoring and making the All-Big East Third Team. He, along with Scoop, was looking to make his senior year even more memorable. At SU's media day this year, he could not stop talking about his focus on getting a National Championship. Through the regular season he led SU in scoring, earning All-Big East First Team honors. In the Big East tournament he struggled, a trend that continued into the NCAA Tourney as well. His career ended on a 4-11 shooting night - not fitting for a player who had been such a constant for the Orange offense.
As teammates offered their final handshakes of the season, Joseph headed for the exit of the Orange locker room Saturday night. He took one step out into the hallway before turning back. He wasn't ready to leave just yet. After the memories he and Jardine have created in their college careers, it was too hard to believe it is all over.