|1996-1997 Syracuse Orangemen|
|Overall||19-13||NIT First Round||Schedule Results|
Coach: Jim Boeheim
Syracuse had played in the NCAA Championship game the year before, but All American John Wallace and senior point guard Lazarus Sims had both graduated. Syracuse had senior Otis Hill returning to help score inside, and hopes were that Todd Burgan would continue to develop into a star. The team had plenty of perimeter shooting with Jason Cipolla and Marius Janulis on hand. Highly recruited freshman Jason Hart would be counted on to run the point guard.
Syracuse started the year ranked #13 in the country. However, they would face a tough Kentucky team in the Great Alaska Shootout, and the Orangeman would be routed 87-53. A few games later the Orangemen would lose easily to West Virginia, and then a close game to Miami. Six games into the season the Orangemen were 3-3 and out of the top 20.
The Orangemen had several problems. They were getting beat consistently at rebounding by the opposition. They did not have a good transition offense, nor a high percentage interior game, so they had to rely on the perimeter shot too much. Hart was a talented freshman, but he was prone to freshman mistakes and turnovers. Perhaps the biggest problem of all was the lack of bench depth, as only Elvir Ovcina and Donovan McNabb had any previous experience. Bobby Lazor and David Patrick had both transferred from last years team. Burgan and Hill would cause problems with the lack of depth as both were foul prone.
Syracuse was 6-4 on December 18th, when Burgan would be suspended seven games for an incident involving a female student. Freshman Etan Thomas would step into the starting lineup, and while he was a solid defensive presence, he was limited on offense. The Orangemen would go 4-3 with Burgan out of the lineup. The Orangemen were 10-7, and in very poor shape for making the NCAA tournament.
Burgan would return on January 20th, and the Orangemen would upset #16 Villanova 62-60 down in Philadelphia. They would end up winning three straight games, and things looked promising as perhaps they had turned things around. However, the Orangemen would then lose three out of four, and setting them back again. They would close out the regular season winning five of six, but their record of 18-11 and 9-9 in the Big East meant they had some work to do in the Big East Tournament.
The Orangemen would beat Notre Dame easily in the first round behind Hart's 24 points. However, Villanova would easily dispose of Syracuse in the second round, and Burgan would injure his finger in the game.
Syracuse would not earn a bid to the NCAA tournament, and would go to the NIT tournament. They would face Florida State in the first round of the NIT, but would lose easily 82-67 in a very uninspired game. Burgan would play only seven minutes because of his finger injury and score no points.
©RLYoung 2005, 2010