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Former Grace Under Fire Star Ruins ’Cuse NCAA Dreams

Sad 'Cuse.

Before Syracuse fans — and, by extension, half the staff of this magazine — jump out the window this morning, remember that this season, by any objective measure, was a resounding success. The Orange weren't even ranked to begin the season, and they won 30 games and the Big East. All year, coach Jim Boeheim expressed befuddlement that all this was happening: He had not seen this coming at all. If you would have told a Syracuse fan back in mid-November, right after the exhibition loss to LeMoyne, that the Orange would make it to the Sweet Sixteen, they would have been ecstatic. See? It's not so bad. Come down off the ledge. There, there ... now, can we talk about the 63–59 loss to Butler? Hey, get back down here!

Much will be written about how Syracuse was missing center Arinze Onuaku —whose college career is now over — but the real reason they lost this game was because the Orange played their sloppiest game all season. They turned the ball over eighteen times and never really looked comfortable. They fell behind big early and spent the whole game trying to catch up, and once they did (leading by four with four minutes left), they ran out of steam, allowing Butler an 11–0 run that put the game out of reach.

The Orange have lots of questions, starting with "Will Wes Johnson come back?" (Probably not.) And the loss last night was surely crushing. But seasons like this one were still fun: One loss can't erase 30 wins, can it? Wait ... can it?

By the way, if Syracuse had to lose to somebody, you should be happy it was Butler, a likable team with a 33-year-old head coach that is one win away from playing the Final Four in its home city of Indianapolis. They'll play Kansas State — which pulled out a thrilling double overtime victory over Xavier in a game that almost murdered announcer Gus Johnson — in the regional final tomorrow afternoon.

Oh, and we're not going to talk about the Cornell-Kentucky game, except that it happened, it is over, Kentucky won and we're going to try to move on with our life, accordingly.

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Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images