Written for your enjoyment by: Raff
I remember exactly where I was and what I did.
I was in the Living Room of the old house on Baltimore Street, it was around Easter time and Caton liked to hunt the eggs. Didn't matter if I filled them or not. We had an Easter Egg hunt every day that year. But after the overtime loss to Vermont in the first round of the 2005 tournament, there was one less egg to find. The basket sat on the coffee table in front of me...and when the clock expired on the loss, I grabbed the nearest one and across the room it sped. Smashing hard off the wall and falling to the floor, where it lay cracked. One less Easter egg to find.
That was five years ago -- but I remember it like it was yesterday. And now the NCAA has decided to go drudge up old memories. Memories that were better left to fester - and hopefully one day be forgotten.
There was definitely the thought that maybe that Syracuse team was special. Special enough to go deep into the NCAA Tournament. Special enough to go further than the #4 seed would suggest. But it never happened. The NCAA dumped the Orange in Worcester, Mass - a short drive from the Vermont campus - and everybody in the Arena became a Vermont fan - or so it seemed. Just like everybody had become a UMASS fan when the Orange played the Minutemen there in 1992 or somewhere around that time.
So when the names first came up yesterday, the immediate thought of any Syracuse fan had to be - "You've got to be kidding me, them again?" And an immediate sense of fear. I know it was mine. I mean why couldn't we just get Lehigh as the reports had suggested all week.
Then I started to realize it didn't matter. This wasn't the same Vermont team. They didn't even had the same Coach. Heck, Tom Brennan's star has lost so much glitter since that day that he lost his ESPN retirement job to boot. Now the Catamounts are led by Mike Lonergan, who wanted nothing more than the Mount coaching job at the time that the Orange was losing that night. Heck, Lonergan was probably still stewing that he didn't get the job. He'd join Vermont the next season.
I saw this Vermont team play this year. A solid bunch, but nothing spectacular. Well Marquis Blakley might be spectacular. Certainly athletic - and a nose for the basketball and the rim. But not sure how well he'll fare against the Orange zone. Although they will want to put a body on him when the shots go up, because he does get to the boards. But he's undersized which will be a big factor in this game. He has the ability to step outside, but not to consistently shoot over the zone.
If anyone is going to that it will be Kris Joseph's big brother Maurice. He has a nice touch from the outside, decent size, but I wouldn't put him in the caliber of shooters who have torched the Orange zone in the past.
So here we are - five years later - in the same place (the first round of the NCAA tournament). But it is oh-so different from five years ago. This isn't a Vermont team with NCAA experience. It isn't even a team that won the America East regular season crown - that honor went to powerhouse Stony Brook. This isn't a Syracuse team amidst controversy over playing time. This isn't their backyard, it is ours.
So don't expect any surprises on Friday night. Expect a rout. Syracuse has the ability to go inside and punish this team - and I think they will. The Vegas line says 20. Anything less than that will be a surprise.
But hide the eggs; just in case.