In the second Associated Press poll in March, the Syracuse Orange had slipped to 19 in the national rankings. The team's confidence was down, there were a handful of bad offensive performances and some fans had the audacity to question Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim.
The Orange ended up as a No. 4 seed in the East Region. The region favored Indiana, but the Orange crushed the dream of the Hoosiers in the Sweet 16.
When Syracuse struggled, I received a bunch of tweets asking what was wrong with Syracuse. Guess what ... the Orange are going to Atlanta, baby!
During the regular season, Marquette beat Syracuse by three points, 74-71, in Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles put up 74 points that day. On Saturday in Washington, Marquette was shut down big time. Buzz Williams' team was held to almost half that point total. Wow, 55-39!
One key to its success was Syracuse's ability to convert on turnovers. The Orange were able to score in transition and break open what was a competitive game.
The Syracuse defense has come out like gangbusters in the tournament. The 2-3 zone is giving opponents trouble. In the four NCAA tournament games, opponents are averaging 19.8 points in the first half. Nobody has scored more than 24 by intermission, helping explain how the Orange have built a lead in each game.
In the four tournament games so far, the Orange have not given up more than 60 points in any contest.
Boeheim goes to the Final Four for the fourth time (1987, 1996, 2003, 2013) in his illustrious career. This also places him fourth on the all-time NCAA tournament wins list, behind Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith and Roy Williams; that is pretty good company.
Remember, Syracuse was one of the top teams in America, sitting at 18-1 at one point. The Orange hit a cold streak but regained their confidence at the Big East tournament, despite losing to Louisville in the final.
In their first meeting with Marquette, free throws were a huge factor. They were never really important Saturday.
Michael Carter-Williams played a great all-around game, with 12 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. James Southerland led a balanced attack with 16 points; he looked for his shot after only three field goal attempts against Indiana.
Marquette missed 12 of its first 14 shots and never truly recovered. The Golden Eagles cut it to six at halftime, but Syracuse pulled away.
Congratulations to Syracuse, back in the Final Four 10 years after its last appearance.