Syracuse Basketball: Stellar Big Dance journey, career for Mike Krzyzewski

Syracuse basketball, Mike Krzyzewski (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball, Mike Krzyzewski (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports) /

Right before the 2022 NCAA Tournament commenced, I had a lot of conversations on social media with my fellow Syracuse basketball fans about which teams they were rooting for, which teams they thought would get knocked out early, and which teams they thought would reach the Final Four, with Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke Blue Devils being a frequent discussion point.

Personally, I always root for squads in the Orange’s conference, whether that’s the old Big East Conference or, at present, the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Some of my fellow ‘Cuse fans called me out for this, saying I’m not a true Syracuse basketball fan, or I’m weird or even much worse things that I won’t share here. It’s cool. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

So as the 68-team bracket was unveiled in mid-March, I was hopeful that ACC members Duke, North Carolina, Miami, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame would fare well.

And the league’s “down” year in 2021-22 certainly didn’t show up in March Madness, as the Fighting Irish won two games, the Hurricanes got to the Elite Eight, the Blue Devils made the Final Four, and the No. 8 seed Tar Heels will face top-seeded Kansas on Monday evening in the national-title contest.

Syracuse basketball built up a nice, albeit short, rivalry with Mike Krzyzewski.

I’ll never fully understand the fascination by some ‘Cuse fans, and many other college basketball fans, to wholeheartedly hate Duke and Mike Krzyzewski. Is it because the Blue Devils and Coach K are so good, season after season, and that irritates some fans?

Coach Krzyzewski isn’t perfect. Neither is Jim Boeheim or any other head coach out there in the sport. But Coach K, to me, reflects greatness and high character. It’s not just about wins and losses to him, but rather, seeing young men develop and grow on and off of the court.

Coach K is one of the iconic figures in collegiate hoops. Frankly, he’s one of the icons in basketball as a whole, given his other endeavors like leading USA Basketball to multiple Olympic gold medals.

On Saturday night in the Final Four, Duke’s really young roster fought so, so tough, but UNC prevailed in a classic encounter against the No. 2 seed Blue Devils, 81-77.

A good amount of Syracuse basketball fans that I discussed the 2022 NCAA Tournament with on social media predicted that Duke would get bounced early, say in the round of 32. I don’t know if these fans truly felt the Blue Devils would get upset that early on, or if they simply wanted to see Duke (32-7) lose before it could make a deep tourney run.

The records that Coach K has amassed are too many to mention in this column, but you can check them out here. What I will say is that the unrivaled head-coaching tenure of Mike Krzyzewski ends with 1,202 career victories, the most in Division I men’s basketball history, a record 101 conquests in the Big Dance, five national championships and a record 13th trip to the Final Four that Coach K made in his final trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Simply stellar. What else can you say? Syracuse basketball isn’t a rival of Duke’s like North Carolina is, or even other ACC teams are. But since the Orange joined the ACC in the 2013-14 season, the ‘Cuse and the Blue Devils have engaged in some epic battles.

I was at the game on the Hill in early February of 2014, when Syracuse basketball defeated Duke, 91-89 in overtime. The crowd was electric, and it was a delight to see Boeheim and Coach K, two dear and long-time friends, go toe to toe.

In recent years, Syracuse basketball sprung a few upsets over the Blue Devils, and the Orange almost stunned Duke in the 2022 ACC Tournament, even with senior shooting guard Buddy Boeheim watching from the sidelines.

That being said, the Blue Devils have won more games versus the ‘Cuse since the Orange became an ACC member. I would imagine the same can be said about the bevy of Duke’s opponents.

However, Coach K has always said really kind things about Boeheim and Syracuse basketball, even when the ‘Cuse has struggled, such as in 2021-22.

So some of my fellow Orange hoops fanatics may read this article and cringe, and that’s their right. It’s all good. For me, I have a ton of respect for Mike Krzyzewski.

I wanted him and his young Blue Devils line-up to cut down the nets this coming Monday night. I guess that it wasn’t meant to be. Even still, it was a glorious March Madness journey – and unparalleled coaching career – for Coach K.

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