Herman Frazier, Deputy Athletics Director/Chief of Staff for Syracuse University, walked up and down familiar sidelines when the Syracuse Orange entered the court at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., for a Sweet 16 match-up with the Indiana Hoosiers.
Earlier in March, the Orange traveled to the same venue in the nation's capital to close out their regular season schedule. Their longtime rival, the Georgetown Hoyas, sent them home after a 61-39 loss.
Upon their return, Syracuse kept themselves from going home, defeating the Indiana Hoosiers, a team ranked as the top program for more weeks than any other NCAA Division I men's basketball program in the 2012-13 campaign, by the score of 61-50.
"I think the student-athletes here, they understand that they were playing in Washington and and they were playing on Georgetown's floor," said Frazier. "And it's interesting from the question you just asked me because I saw one of the Georgetown staff members about two seconds ago and I said to 'em, I go, 'Hey, what you guys did to us earlier in the month really helped us get prepared and get focused, and everything you see now is a byproduct of losing that game.'"
"We really got focused," Frazier continued. "I think it woke our students up and we've been playing some good basketball ever since with the only loss obviously coming to Louisville." Since losing to the Hoyas in the Verizon Center to end their regular season, the Orange have gone on a 6-1 run in the postseason.
Syracuse had to obtain two wins to earn the opportunity to play in Washington. After playing the Big East Conference Tournament on the east coast in New York City, they had to travel out west to San Jose, California, before returning to the eastern portion of the United States.
When asked about the effect of cross-country travel and timezone changes on the bodies of the Syracuse players, Frazier stated, "Well they're resilient and they're young. Young people can do that. I think back to my days when I was running. I mean, I could leave Phoenix on Thursday, run a meet in New York on Friday, run another meet in Ohio on Saturday, run another meet on Sunday in Montreal, Canada. And so, these guys are young, they're trained. That's what you go through all those early-season workouts for."
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Frazier proclaimed. "I mean, you would think with all the success we've had in the program and so forth and so on, to be able to go back to the Final Four for the first time since 2003, there's no question that that's on the minds of these young people."
During Frazier's tenure in Syracuse University Athletics, the Orange have attained back-to-back Elite Eight berths.
"I'm just enjoying the ride," Frazier shared. "I'm just a sports fan period. And to be able to be a part of it as well as see these young people develop, it just makes you feel good to be a part of the Syracuse University program."
Though he was not a member of Syracuse's athletic staff when senior guard Brandon Triche's uncle Howard was playing for the Orange, Frazier has an interesting connection to the 1987 NCAA championship match between the Orange and the Hoosiers. "I'm laughing because that's also the first Final Four that I ever went to, and I was sitting up in the rafters in 1987 in New Orleans," said Frazier. "Obviously being an east coast guy, I was also rooting for Syracuse University against Indiana and Bob Knight and those guys."
Now connected professionally with the program, Frazier appreciates how this year's team performed against Indiana. "We played a terrific defensive game [against Indiana]," Frazier offered. "That was unbelievable. And we took those guys out of their game early and they were never able to recuperate."
"To then look at a stat sheet and see that two of their young men had zero for points," he went on, "now that's just amazing in this day and age." Indiana guards, senior Jordan Hulls and freshman Yogi Ferrell, did not attain any points despite each playing at least 23 minutes against Syracuse.
With Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim being both critiqued and respected for the 2-3 zone he has made synonymous with Syracuse basketball, Frazier gave his take on the university's 37-year leader. "First of all, coach [Jim Boeheim], he's a professional, and I think the way he goes about his business and the way he carries this team is also professional, and I think it rubs off on those players," Frazier shared. "So, when you talk to them they will tell you, 'Hey, we're focused and we're all about participating in basketball and winning for the university.'"
Though Syracuse has forced teams to struggle against their zone, they have also had trouble themselves versus zones. Their Elite Eight opponent, the Marquette Golden Eagles, were one of those teams that utilized zone defense to aid in defeating the Orange in the regular season.
However, since their late-season losses, Syracuse has turned their play around for the better and Frazier believes that Marquette will not be seeing the same squad as before. "Not only is it a different team seeing it (Marquette's zone), but you also had Michael Carter-Williams putting up six threes [versus Indiana] as well," Frazier noted. "So if they play zone and he's able to be able to shoot like he did [against Indiana], I think that has to be factored in."