For a while it looked like this tournament would have to go on without Syracuse, and what would the Big East Championship look like without Syracuse?
Of course, everyone is going to find out soon enough, with the Orange leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference after this season. That is the theme running through the Garden this week, like "Auld Lang Syne" filling Times Square on New Year's Eve. "It's just -- it's my whole life," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, whose team managed to revive its offense and survived for at least one more day.
Solid zone defense, excellent ball movement, good shooting -- Syracuse staples for all these years -- fueled a 15-2 run early in the second half and sustained a 75-63 win over Seton Hall Wednesday. So despite having never led in the first half, the Orange (24-8) advanced and will play Pittsburgh, its future ACC comrade, this afternoon. It will be another walk down Memory Lane.
"I was thinking in the locker room before the game about some of the games, some of the highlights," Boeheim said after having seen James Southerland score 20 points and Brandon Triche score 17 for a team that had been in a recent scoring funk. "Your whole life has been spent in this league."
It wasn't just the league, but the tournament at the Garden, which has become like a home site for Syracuse because of the way the team and its fans have responded. "I've been fortunate to have been in 14 finals here. I remember every one of them like yesterday, the plays. Walter Berry should have never blocked Pearl's shot," he said, revealing a slight grin at the recollection of Pearl Washington and the 1986 championship game loss to St. John's.
"The heartbreaks are what make the good ones so great. You have to have them both," he said.
For many people, the heartbreak is the dissolution of the conference built by Dave Gavitt. "What he did to work this league out is incredible," Boeheim said. "Nobody should ask how the Big East was broken up. People should ask, how did it stay together?"
Drawing top players didn't hurt, and the electricity of the conference tournament sure helped. "It's one of the reasons why I chose Syracuse," said Triche, who ended a personal offensive slump in the win over Seton Hall (15-18). "Remembering G-Mac, the run he made his senior year, and Jonny Flynn going to six overtimes. All these memories mean a lot."