Verizon Center memories wildly differ for Boeheim, Oladipo

Verizon Center memories wildly differ for Boeheim, Oladipo
March 28, 2013, 3:00 pm
Share This Post

Because Syracuse righted its regular season wrongs just in time for the postseason, Jim Boeheim once again has a team in the NCAA Tournament contending mix.

However, because the Orange were placed in the East Region, reaching the round of 16 this season meant the coach revisiting two nightmare scenarios - neither of which involve Indiana star and D.C. area native Victor Oladipo. Not yet anyway.

There is the 1987 loss national championship game loss to Indiana, the region's top seed and Syracuse's next opponent. Also, playing again at the Verizon Center where earlier this month the Orange endured a 22-point thrashing by rival Georgetown and left the 68-year-old coach hinting at retirement.

Curiously, the long, long time coach had far less of a problem recalling the events from nearly 26 years ago then a setback less than three week ago.

"I can't remember that game," said Boeheim at his curmudgeon best during the beginning of Wednesday's press conference. "Just can't remember."

Though he's won his share of games at the Verizon Center over the years, there are several good reasons why Boeheim, now in his 37th season as Syracuse's head coach, would certainly like to expunge memories of the most recent setback. Among them, the Orange scored fewer points (39) than in any game in the program's history since 1962 and it capped a 1-4 close to the regular season.

Yet here they are two games from the fifth Final Four in school history and the first since the 2003 Carmelo Anthony-led National Championship team.

Later during the press conference, Boeheim's memory about not so long improved.

"I think during the course of 35 games you're going to have a bad game or two," said the coach with 918 wins on his resume. "We just happened to have our bad game at the end of the year."

Improved outside shooting, notably from forward James Southerland, proved crucial in the Orange winning five of six games entering Thursday's clash with Indiana, which follows tips after No. 2 Miami and No.3 Marquette.

"We played ‑‑ our defense has been consistent all year," Boeheim said. "We had a good year. I think one of the weaknesses that we had was we didn't shoot the ball particularly well in three or four, probably five of those games, or six. We played better in the postseason because we shot better, basically."

Syracuse played well to reach the 1987 title game, but not well enough thanks to Keith Smart hitting "the shot" from the left wing in the final seconds of Indiana's 74-73 victory.

On this topic, Boeheim had less of an issue diving back into the way back machine.

"We played very well in the game," the coach said. "When you lose a game like that, you really almost never get over it. I got over it in 2003."

If Syracuse is going to get past Indiana, slowing down the Hoosiers inside-outside tandem of Cody Zeller and Oladipo is vital.

In the case of the 6-foot-5 wing with crazy hops and a National Player of the Year kind of game, returning home and specifically to the Verizon Center is nothing but positive.

"I won a couple of city championships with DeMatha, won a couple of AAU championship games here, and there hasn't been a lot of hoopla," Oladipo said on Wednesday.

Maybe the former DeMatha product has not absorbed the attention, but there has been plenty of it throughout the season. Indiana's presence among the country's top-ranked teams has been both steady and spotlighted while Oladipo's rise has been meteoric.

The junior guard with a defensive knack and an overwhelming vertical leap has jumped his scoring from 7.4 points a freshman to 13.6 this season thanks to knocking down 43.3 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Credit hard work dating back to his days at DeMatha through three years under Indiana coach Tom Crean. Getting to play for a potential Final Four berth in his hometown, that's just good luck.

"My family has been fortunate to come out and watch me play because they live so close," Oladipo said. "I'm looking forward to playing with my teammates and coming out and playing Indiana basketball at a high level."

If he does, if they do, Boeheim may never want to face Indiana or play at the Verizon Center again.

Actually, we don't know when he will coach in Chinatown next seeing as Syracuse heads to the ACC next season and is no longer in the same conference as Georgetown. As for whether he'll actually coach beyond this season, Boeheim clarified his position.

"I'm coachin' next year, I kid around a little bit and everybody gets crazy when I do so I'm not going to kid around about it anymore, I'm coaching next year, thrilled, got a great challenge, looking forward to it."