|1997-1998 Syracuse Orangemen|
|Overall||26-9||NCAA Sweet Sixteen||Schedule Results|
Coach: Jim Boeheim
Syracuse began the season unranked coming off a disappointing NIT season. The team was counting on swingman Todd Burgan to have a big season to help with the offense, and for the development of the younger players, primarily Jason Hart and Etan Thomas to be significant. Coach Jim Boeheim had five freshman recruits on the team, and time would tell if they would be of help during this season. Senior sharpshooter Marius Janulis was in the backcourt with Hart, and Illinois transfer Ryan Blackwell joined Thomas and Burgan up front.
Boeheim made a commitment to playing man-to-man defense for the season, instead of his traditional zone. The team struggled at times early in the season. In the home opener against UNC-Asheville, they missed switching off on certain assignments and that almost cost the team the game.
The team would play lackluster against Colgate, though the Orangemen would pull out the victory 78-74. Burgan would have 10 steals in the game.
Syracuse played in the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic over the Christmas holidays. They narrowly beat St. Louis and #18 TCU to run their record to 11-0. The Orangemen played Michigan in the tournament championship. The Wolverines, who were much bigger inside than Syracuse, and much fresher due to the blowout games they had in the tournament, routed the Orangemen 93-61.
The Orangemen would start the Big East season at 11-1, and would go 12-6 during the conference play. Burgan would lead the team in scoring most every night; the other four starters contributed about 10-11 points per game. Defense was the key to their game.
Syracuse’s bench never really developed over the season, as the five starters accounted for 85% of the playing time. Junior center Elvir Ovcina would relieve Etan Thomas, and freshman Allen Griffin would occasionally give Hart or Janulis a break, but that was about it.
Syracuse would enter the Big East tournament as the #2 seed. The Orangemen would shoot poorly against Villanova in the first round, but the Syracuse defense made it tough for the Wildcats to score too. The game was close, but the Orangemen made all six of their free throws down the stretch to win 69-66. Ryan Blackwell would have 16 rebounds in the tight game.
Syracuse played St. John’s in the second round. The Orange led 58-51 with less than 4 minutes to go in the game; they would not score again in regulation, and Ron Artest tied the game with a lay up at the end of regulation. Syracuse had the score tied 67-67 as time was winding down in overtime. They got the ball to Todd Burgan for the last shot, but Burgan was off balance. He spotted Blackwell and threw him a nice pass; Burgan then took the jumper and won the game 69-67. Etan Thomas tied a Big East tournament record with 8 blocked shots.
Syracuse faced #6 ranked UConn in the Big East Championship. The Huskies defense was too good for the Orangemen as the team struggled to score all night, and the Huskies won the championship 69-64.
The Orangemen would play Iona in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Iona led the game 61-60, when Jason Hart drove to the hoop with 10 seconds to go, and passed to Blackwell. Blackwell passed to Burgan whose shot was blocked by Donell Mitchell. Burgan grabbed the loose ball and passed it out to Janulis who hit the game winning 3 point shot from the top of the key. The Orange would advance and beat #18 New Mexico in the next game.
Syracuse faced #3 ranked Duke in the Sweet Sixteen. The Blue Devils were too much for Syracuse, as they won easily 80-67.
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