Syracuse basketball has eight former players, 4-star recruits in 2024 Elite Eight

The Big Dance's Elite Eight is this weekend. Multiple former Syracuse basketball players and 4-star recruits are competing.
The Big Dance's Elite Eight is this weekend. Multiple former Syracuse basketball players and 4-star recruits are competing. / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

Syracuse basketball didn't get to go dancing this March, for the third straight year, but multiple former Orange players and recruiting targets have advanced to the Elite Eight of this year's March Madness, so I guess I'll live vicariously through them.

All kidding aside, I do tip my hat to former 'Cuse guard Joe Girard III and Clemson, which knocked off No. 3 seed Baylor and then No. 2 seed Arizona to reach the Elite Eight. And what about the magical run so far by No. 11 seed N.C. State, which ran off five wins in five days at the recent ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C., just to reach this spring's NCAA Tournament.

The Wolfpack, which ran through teams including the Orange, Virginia, Duke and North Carolina to win the ACC tourney crown, on Friday evening upset No. 2 seed Marquette to reach the Elite Eight. So much for the ACC being overrated.

I recognize that some of my fellow 'Cuse fans don't care all that much what former Syracuse basketball players and recruits do with other teams, and that's fair. But I still think it's cool to see these guys with previous Orange connections making it deep in March.

Former Syracuse basketball players and targets are competing in regional finals this weekend.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Elite Eight match-ups will transpire, with the winners advancing to the following weekend's Final Four at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Here are the Elite Eight battles:

East Region, No. 1 seed UConn versus No. 3 seed Illinois
West Region, No. 4 seed Alabama versus No. 6 seed Clemson
South Region, No. 4 seed Duke versus No. 11 seed N.C. State
Midwest Region, No. 1 seed Purdue versus No. 2 seed Tennessee

The headliner here, as far as Syracuse basketball, centers on Girard, who played four years on the Hill and finished as a top-20 scorer in the history of the 'Cuse program. He moved to Clemson as a graduate student, and the Tigers are one win away from their first Final Four appearance ever.

Interestingly enough, Clemson's opponent in the regional final, Alabama, also has never reached the national semifinals. Football schools turned basketball schools, eh?

When the Tigers stunned Arizona in the Sweet 16, Girard struggled with his shot, but on the 2023-24 season, he's averaging about 15 points per game, while shooting more than 40 percent from deep and nearly 94 percent from the charity stripe.

Over at Alabama, its backcourt includes graduate-student guard Aaron Estrada. He previously played for Saint Peter’s, Oregon and Hofstra. When Estrada was looking to transfer out of Saint Peter’s, he reportedly received some level of interest from the Orange coaching staff.

For the Crimson Tide in 2023-24, Estrada is averaging just under 14 points per affair, along with about five rebounds and five assists per game.

If we check in with Illinois out of the Big Ten Conference, the Fighting Illini knocked out No. 2 seed Iowa State in the Sweet 16 to set up an Elite Eight showdown with the defending national champion, UConn.

On the Illinois 2023-24 roster is former Syracuse basketball player Quincy Guerrier, a forward who spent two years with the Orange and then two terms at Oregon before competing for Illinois as a graduate student. He's averaging about 10 points and six rebounds per affair for the Fighting Illini.

By the way, Guerrier and Girard were starters on the last Syracuse basketball squad to play in the NCAA Tournament, when the 'Cuse journeyed to the 2021 Sweet 16 as a No. 11 seed before falling to No. 2 seed Houston. Sigh.

Another key contributor for the Fighting Illini is 2022 four-star wing Ty Rodgers, who held a scholarship offer from the Orange. The Illinois sophomore, who spent his senior year at Thornton Township High School in Harvey, Ill., is averaging about six points, five rebounds and two assists per encounter in 2023-24.

When Illinois attempts to shock Connecticut, the defending nation champ and No. 1 overall seed in the 2024 Big Dance, the Huskies' line-up will include two former Syracuse basketball recruits. They are sophomore center Donovan Clingan and junior forward Samson Johnson.

Clingan, a 2022 four-star center out of Bristol Central High School in Bristol, Conn., took an official visit to the Hill but ultimately picked UConn. Johnson, a 2021 four-star big man out of The Patrick School in Hillside, N.J., held a 'Cuse scholarship offer.

For the Huskies, Clingan is averaging about 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocks per game. Johnson, meanwhile, averages roughly five points and three boards per contest.

If we head on over to Duke, the Blue Devils took care of No. 1 seed Houston to set up an all-ACC Elite Eight contest with N.C. State. Duke's 2023-24 roster includes former Orange target Kyle Filipowski, a sophomore center with the Blue Devils who this stanza is averaging nearly 17 points per game, along with roughly eight boards, three assists, 1.5 blocks and one steal per affair.

In the 2022 cycle, Filipowski was a five-star, top-five national prospect out of the Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Mass. He officially visited Syracuse basketball but ultimately pledged to Duke.

Last but not least, No. 2 seed Tennessee, which is seeking its first-ever Final Four appearance, beat No. 3 seed Creighton on Friday night to set up a clash with top-seeded Purdue. My nearly 8-year-old son will be ecstatic, as he loves the Vols (and 'Cuse).

The Tennessee roster this stanza includes former Syracuse basketball priority recruit J.P. Estrella, a freshman big man. Estrella took an official visit to the Orange and had the 'Cuse among his small group of finalists before picking the Vols.

A four-star prospect in the 2023 class who spent his senior year at the Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., Estrella hasn't played much at all in 2023-24 for Tennessee. Per ESPN, he's appeared in 24 games, averaging just 4.5 minutes and 1.6 points per contest.

Next. Syracuse Basketball: Next season, the Orange roster is going to look quite different. Syracuse Basketball: Next season, the Orange roster is going to look quite different. dark