Out of the blue — or make that orange — Syracuse finds itself in the best of all places — the men’s and women’s Final Four.
The feat has been accomplished by only eight other schools, most recently by UConn in 2014 when Kevin Ollie’s men and Geno Auriemma’s women won titles. Both teams of Huskies also won national championships in 2004, the only other time that’s happened.
In all, UConn has placed both its teams in the Final Four four times. Syracuse is happy just to join the party because no one saw this coming.
The men have 13 losses, five during a nine-game NCAA suspension to coach Jim Boeheim. The ban came a year ago after a long investigation that uncovered various violations in the athletic department. The women had never advanced past the first weekend of the tournament.
“It’s not easy. There’s no question about it,” Boeheim said Monday. “It’s a tremendous accomplishment. Besides the fact just to have two from the same school, for these two particular teams the odds were pretty steep to get to the Final Four. I’m happy for the school. I think it’s good for the soul of the school that we have good programs.”
The Orange men (23-13) were among the last teams to get into the NCAA Tournament after a rough closing stretch. They slipped in as a No. 10 seed before storming to their second Final Four in four seasons.
The Syracuse women (29-7), ranked most of the season, defeated upstate New York foes Army and Albany at home in the Carrier Dome, then topped No. 1 seed South Carolina before beating Tennessee by 22 points Sunday to reach the national semifinals.
The Orange men, who have been to four other Final Fours since Boeheim took over in 1976, rallied from a 16-point deficit to knock off top-seeded Virginia 68-62 in the Midwest final Sunday night. Syracuse also beat Dayton, Middle Tennessee State and Gonzaga before facing the Cavaliers.
Other things to know about this rare Orange double:
Semifinal setbacks: Georgia landed both men and women in the 1983 Final Four and both teams lost in the semifinals. Texas followed suit in 2003, the year Boeheim led the Orange men to their only national championship, as did LSU in 2006.
Finals disaster: Duke in 1999 is the only school to have both its men and women reach the national championship game and lose. Mike Krzyzewski’s men lost to Jim Calhoun’s UConn Huskies (77-74) and the Duke women lost to Purdue (62-45).
Win some, lose some: In 2002, the Oklahoma women lost in the final and the men lost in the semis. In 2005, the Michigan State women lost in the final and the men were ousted in the semifinals. In 2013, the Louisville men won the national championship and the women lost in the final.
UConn king: The Connecticut women provide a common thread in this scenario with 10 national championships among their 16 Final Four appearances. The Huskies won the 2009 women’s title while the men made the Final Four but lost in the semifinals. Two years later, the men won their third title under Calhoun and the women lost in the semis.
Working together: The success of both Syracuse teams this year says a lot about the two coaches, who follow one another’s exploits and share the same facility — the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center.
“It’s really good. It says a lot about our building,” Quentin Hillsman, in his 10th year as coach of the Syracuse women, said Monday. “We have two very good basketball teams in that building. Both teams are right in their mode.”
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