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Syracuse Basketball: Boeheim’s Army has me excited, nervous like 2003

Syracuse basketball, Boeheim's Army (Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball, Boeheim's Army (Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images) /

Boeheim’s Army, that fabulous Syracuse basketball alumni team, is in its first championship game of The Basketball Tournament (“TBT”), and I’m feeling all kinds of nostalgia about the Orange’s 2002-03 season.

I’m not trying to compare the ‘Cuse program with Boeheim’s Army, because Boeheim’s Army has multiple non-Syracuse basketball players.

And the TBT, while an awesome annual summer event providing the championship squad with $1 million, isn’t at all the same as the NCAA Tournament.

However, the grit, heart and toughness displayed by Boeheim’s Army in the 2021 TBT are so admirable. The No. 3 seed Boeheim’s Army will go for all the glory in this summer tourney when it faces No. 6 seed Team 23 on Tuesday night from Dayton, Ohio, at 9 pm EST, with ESPN providing television coverage.

In the Final Four on Sunday afternoon, Boeheim’s Army was tied at 64 with No. 5 seed Florida TNT, but the opposing squad had the ball and a chance to win the game with the Elam Ending target-score set at 66 points.

But Tyrese Rice, a point guard for Boeheim’s Army and Boston College alum, made a steal and converted that into a lay-up. Boeheim’s Army prevailed. I screamed at my television. Visions of 2002-03 for the ‘Cuse popped into my head.

Boeheim’s Army, with its Syracuse basketball players and others, will play for the big payday.

Every Orange fan knows that Syracuse basketball and its legendary head coach, Jim Boeheim, captured their first and only March Madness in 2003.

That conquest of Kansas, and by extension the Orange’s journey throughout the entire 2003 NCAA Tournament, was a roller-coaster ride for me. Tons of enthusiasm, excitement and nervous energy.

When Syracuse basketball made the Big Dance title encounter in 1987, I was nine years old. When the Orange got to the same position in 1996, I hadn’t quite made it to Syracuse University as a student.

More recently, the ‘Cuse has advanced to the national semi-finals in 2013 and 2016 but got no further. So in some ways, the Boeheim’s Army current run is similar in many respects to what Syracuse basketball did in 2003.

In that NCAA Tournament, the Orange took care of Manhattan and Oklahoma State, squeaked by Auburn, dispatched of Oklahoma and Texas, and then held off Kansas for the Big Dance title.

Against the Jayhawks, the ‘Cuse held a huge first-half lead, only to see much of it slip away after intermission. Toward the game’s conclusion, some free throws were missed, but a key block was made. Boeheim had his March Madness championship.

For Boeheim’s Army in 2021, there have been multiple comebacks, poor shooting here and there, lock-down defense, highs and lows, timely plays and an appearance in the final battle.

Hopefully, Tuesday evening’s result for Boeheim’s Army will mirror that of Syracuse basketball more than 18 years ago.

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