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Syracuse Basketball: Let’s color Dayton Orange for TBT title game

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports) /
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It’s time for a road trip, for myself and many other Syracuse basketball fans!

Boeheim’s Army has advanced to The Basketball Tournament championship game, Orange family.

Which means there is nowhere we’d rather be than the University of Dayton Arena on Tuesday night at 9 pm ET as Boeheim’s Army plays for the $1 million, winner-take-all prize.

The team, made up of Syracuse alumni and other (very) welcomed additions, has won five straight heart-stopping TBT games, punctuated by Elam Ending exclamation points.

It will be Boeheim’s Army’s first title game in seven summers of effort.

So, let’s paint that Dayton Arena bright Orange.

As a die-hard, lifelong ‘Cuse fan who has also watched every Boeheim’s Army game since its first TBT run in 2015, I am compelled to attend.

My 18-year-old son and I will be loading up the car and heading for Ohio. It’s only six hours from where I live, and well within driving distance for legions of Syracuse fans from all parts, who can make the pilgrimage to show support.

Not many college athletic programs travel better or represent more prominently than Syracuse basketball.

Personally, I’ve seen Syracuse play in many different cities, and have always been proud of the way Orange fans show up and show out.

For example, besides of course dozens of games in the Carrier Dome, I’ve seen Syracuse play in:

Washington, DC vs. Georgetown.

Columbia, SC vs. South Carolina.

Milwaukee vs. Marquette.

Chicago vs. DePaul; and for the NCAA Tournament.

St. Louis, for the NCAA Tournament.

New York City numerous times, most recent vs. UConn.

The Bahamas, for the Battle 4 Atlantis.

And in most every opposing or neutral arena, the Orange section was loud and passionate. The only time I felt slightly alone at a game was in South Carolina, for the rare Syracuse game against the Gamecocks (we won, by the way, in OT).

When us Syracuse fans see each other in the arena hallways, or in the stands, or walking to the stadium, we seem to connect by telepathy. We have the shared experience of bleeding Orange, and we understand what that means. Usually only a nod or a fist bump is all it takes to form a family-like bond on game day.

No words are necessary beyond, “Go Orange.” The t-shirts do the talking.

Boehiem’s Army, the Syracuse basketball alumni team, is in the TBT championship contest.

When you are in an opposing arena, one thing I’ve noticed is it’s Orange head coach Jim Boeheim himself that casts the largest shadow. The crowd feels it when he walks in. Tuesday night for the TBT final, our favorite team has the legendary coach’s name on it. (And now we are getting reports, such as from Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com, that The Man himself plans to be in the building Tuesday night).

Without a doubt, the best moments are when the chant begins, spontaneously, at the exact right moment:

“Let’s Go, ORR-ANGE. Let’s Go, ORR-ANGE.”

Inside the Carrier Dome, it’s deafening. But when those words ring through an opposing arena, it’s even more powerful. You can always feel the chant reach our guys and give them a rush of adrenaline. The team knows we are there and we aren’t ever going to give up.

Boeheim loves it. He knows the opposing team feels the weight of that chant.

It might sound insane but I go to Syracuse basketball games as a fan with one intention: To help the team win. Not to have a good time.

I go because it matters that we are there, to the players.

I go to stand for the first made basket in each half. To get on the refs until they know to keep it fair. To offer encouragement to the players wearing Orange and holding our hearts in their hands, and show them that there is an Army behind them.

I go to wear Orange.

TBT founder Jon Mugar told me before this year’s tournament began that the Orange faithful, when we first showed up in big numbers in Philadelphia and Chicago for the 2015 event, helped shape his vision and open his eyes to perhaps even greater possibilities than he could have imagined.

Everyone involved with the team has contributed to this year’s run. From GM Kevin Belbey to new coach Jeremy Pope and Ryan Blackwell. From ‘Cuse players with NCAA final four pedigrees CJ Fair, Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon to Orange alumni with NBA experience, Chris McCullough and Andrew White. From the new non-Orange players DJ Kennedy, Deandre Kane, Keifer Sykes and miracle man Tyrese Rice to the team’s heart and soul: Eric Devendorf.

Thanks for the ride, 2021 Boeheim’s Army.

Now let’s have some fun Tuesday night.

Who’s coming with me?

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