Jerry McNamara Leads Syracuse to Big East Title
McNamara’s Band-- Syracuse Orange Have Other Team’s seeing Red
Can one player make a difference in a tournament? Can one player make a difference in what many consider to be the top conference in college basketball? Can one player be so spectacular that the crowd changes the name of the tournament to his name (at least informally)?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
After an article in the Syracuse school newspaper which said
the college’s point guard was “overrated,”
Jerry McNamara went on to prove just the opposite, leading the
Orangemen, who were the ninth seed in their tournament, to the
Big East Championship and an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament.
No one is going to argue that Syracuse had a stellar season-- they didn’t. During the regular season, they were unable to beat most Big East Conference teams, including Connecticut, Villanova, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, DePaul, and Georgetown. In the league, they finished with a 7-9 record, tied for ninth. Now they’re on the top of the Big East and it’s hard not to credit one player with this amazing turnaround.
These days the name Gerry McNamara may be said as a blessing in Syracuse, but after this year’s Big East Tournament, it’s certainly become a foul word on the lips of Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, and Pittsburgh fans. Here’s why.
In the first round game, McNamara hit a 3-pointer at the last second to defeat Cincinnati. Against number one UConn, he hit a basket with 5 seconds left to tie the game and send it into overtime. Syracuse won that quarterfinal contest in OT. Against the Hoyas, ranked 23 in the nation, he knocked down a three to bring the team within one, made the assist on the go-ahead basket, and then forced a turnover on Georgetown’s final possession.
Playing against fifteenth ranked Pittsburgh, he threw in 14 points, including three 3-pointers, and dished off six assists. During the tournament he set a new record for 3-pointers, hitting 16. He was, of course, the tournament’s MVP.
Heading into March Madness the Orangemen have a few things going for them-- experience in the limelight, an ability to rise to the occasion, and one of the hottest point guards in college basketball. To continue their streak and go deep into the NCAA Tournament, they’ll have to play tenaciously on both ends of the court. This is not a team that can let up and win.
A newfound confidence and continued hard work on the floor will make the Syracuse Orangemen--McNamara’s band-- an unpredictable force in this year’s tournament. It’s often said a reliable, talented, smart point guard can make the difference between victory and defeat. You’ll have no problem convincing Syracuse coaches, players and fans about that.
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