© 2022 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Syracuse sends SU men's and women's basketball off to Final Four, first time in school's history

The Syracuse University men’s and women’s basketball teams will both be playing in the Final Four this year. It’s the first time in the school’s history that both will compete in the Final Four at the same time.

It has been a rocky season for Syracuse men’s basketball Coach Jim Boeheim, now in his 40th year at the helm of the program. He was suspended for nine games during the regular season because of NCAA violations. The team lost 13 games this season. Boeheim, along with some sports commentators, were surprised they even made it into the tournament, let alone making it to the Final Four.

But at a pep rally that was packed to the rafters in Manley Field House, Boeheim along with the players thanked fans for their support.

“There’s no Cinderellas here, these two teams deserve to be here,” Boeheim said. “There’s no second-guessers here, there’s no naysayers here. Everybody here is for Syracuse University, for Syracuse basketball. They were with us when we lost.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams defeated No. 1 seeds in their regional games to make it to the national semi-finals. It is the women’s team’s first appearance in history at the Final Four. Guard Brittney Sykes has dealt with two torn ACLs in her career but said she appreciates the growing enthusiasm of audiences.

“We thank you for the games you came to," Sykes said. "There were 200 fans, now we’re getting 1,000-2,000 fans so we really appreciate you Cuse Nation for that.”

Coach Quentin Hillsman for the women's team said the energy at the home games during the tournament was big and he thanked his players.

"These ladies who really bought into what we are trying to do, who play hard every game, who really put everything on the line for us to be successful, this day is only about them," Hillsman said. "They're the ones that did it and got us here."

Government officials also came out, including Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is a Syracuse alumna.

"This is about being gutsy, this is about the will to win," Hochul said. "This is about when naysayers say you can't do it, you show them wrong and you do it, so congratulations we are so proud of you."

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said the Final Four is bringing the community together to root for the underdogs.

"You've seen people standing in line to buy T-shirts," Miner said. "Everybody is going to be in bars and restaurants. It's one of those indications that while we all come from different backgrounds and different walks of life and different neighborhoods, we all have this in common."

The men’s team will play North Carolina on Saturday night and the women will take on Washington on Sunday night.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.