Though the Syracuse Orange men's basketball squad did not come with the NCAA Championship trophy and head coach Jim Boeheim did not have the celebratory net around his neck, the Orange are heading toward a new campaign after one of their most successful seasons.
"Well if you get to the Final Four, it went your way, no question about that," said Boeheim. "It's an unbelievable accomplishment with any team."
Before losing four of their last five regular season games, Syracuse had four losses all season out of 26 contests.
The Orange evolved at the right time, advancing to the Big East Conference Tournament championship game.
Another hit came when they lost in the Big East title match to the Louisville Cardinals, but just as they did from the regular season to the conference tournament, Syracuse resurrected themselves. They swept through their first two games in San Jose, California, before coming back into the building that featured one of their worst losses in team history less than a month before when the Georgetown Hoyas defeated them 61-39. The second time around shown a brighter Orange with Syracuse taking care of their opponents in both the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds.
With April now on the calendar, the Orange were one of four teams remaining on the national stage from more than 300 NCAA Division I men's basketball programs.
Boeheim has referred the "competitiveness" in today's college basketball arena has made it so "30, 40 teams can go" to the national stage in the Final Four.
"Wichita State nobody thought," Boeheim remarked. "They wouldn't have been picked in the top 30 or 40. Even Michigan, even though they were good, I don't know if many people would pick Michigan to go to the Final Four. So, yeah, I think it's an unbelievable accomplishment."
The days of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Pac-12, Big 12, Big East, and Big Ten being the sole representatives in the Final Four has since past. Wichita State advanced to the national stage out of the Missouri Valley Conference in which they were ranked second in conference record at the end of the regular season.
In back-to-back tournaments from 2010 through 2011, the Butler Bulldogs, a team hailing from the Horizon League, not only attained a place in the Final Four, but went one step further into the national championship game both times.
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) joined Butler in 2011 out of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), accounting for half of America's best tournament teams that year.
Amidst the growth of programs from what are considered "non-major" conferences as well as "major" conferences continuing to impress, Syracuse surfaced as one of the remaining teams.
But it did not take their resurgence for Boeheim to see that his squad was something special. "We were pretty consistent all year, even on the losing streak," Boeheim offered. "We were playing top teams (Georgetown, Louisville, and Marquette). So it was just a really solid year."
Heading toward his 38th season as the leader of the Orange, Boeheim has now guided four separate teams to the Final Four in each of the last four decades, from the 1980s to the 2010s, and he is not seeming to slow down yet.