It is the most painful memory for Syracuse basketball fans. Jim Boeheim's Orange squad controlled the 1987 national championship game against Indiana, and was on the cusp of their first title. Then, missed free throws and a Keith Smart jump-shot gave the Hoosiers the win, breaking the hearts of Syracuse fans, players, and coaches.
Fast forward to 2013, and Indiana is in Syracuse's way once again. This time, it is in a Sweet-16 matchup with a trip to the regional final on the line. While the focus should be on how Syracuse will try to limit Cody Zeller in the paint, or how they can keep the Hoosiers' sharp shooters from getting open looks, that painful memory will be replayed over and over.
It is, after all, one of the signature moments in NCAA Tournament history. And a contest between two of college basketball's elite programs will naturally conjure up remembrances of such events from the national media. In pre-game shows leading up to tip-off, the Smart jumper over Howard Triche will be discussed at length. The replay will be shown over and over.
There is also the Triche connection. Starting senior guard Brandon Triche is Howard Triche's nephew. So you can bet Brandon will be asked about it multiple times during the days leading up to the game.
When the game is set to air, the pre-game show will naturally show that replay as well. So Syracuse fans should prepare themselves. The wound, which may never fully heal, will be re-opened with a ready to pour saltshaker taunting the Orange faithful.
But Syracuse has a chance to knock off the Hoosiers and seek a small amount of revenge. Indiana has championship aspirations, as they should. Their team is as talented and balanced as any in the country. A victory to end their run at the title would give Orange fans a bit of redemption from the pain forged by the bunch from Indiana 26 years ago.
The venue will be, ironically, Georgetown's home court. Syracuse has a nice alumni base in Washington D.C., and the fans travel as good as any in college basketball. It should be a bit of a home court advantage, and Syracuse will need any advantage they can get. Indiana is a tough matchup, as they are for any team.
Once the ball is tipped, Smart's jumper means nothing. The game will be decided by the players taking the court in 2013, not those that created the much discussed moment in 1987. This Syracuse squad will have to play their best game of the season if they are to create their own memory as they look to make the Final Four for the first time since their own title run ten years ago.
This is why the NCAA Tournament is the best event in sports. The matchups, the history, the magic, and the upsets. It is pure madness.