Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim isn’t surprised that No. 2 seeds Oklahoma and Villanova knocked off top seeds to join No. 1 seed North Carolina in the Final Four.
He is, however, a bit taken aback that the other team in the field managed to do so.
“I’m probably surprised at the other guys — that we’re there,” Boeheim said of his team. “I shouldn’t say that, but I am a little surprised.”
Boeheim certainly isn’t the only one surprised that Syracuse is one of the last four teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament. The Orange, who rallied Sunday night for a 68-62 victory over top-seeded Virginia, become the first No. 10 seed to reach the national semifinals and just the fourth double-digit seed to do it.
Syracuse will meet North Carolina on Saturday night after Oklahoma and Villanova play in the first semifinal. The Orange are in the Final Four for the sixth time overall and first since 2013, when they lost to Michigan.
Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose team spent three weeks at No. 1 in February, said there were so many teams this season worthy of No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
“Even when the seedings came out, I think there was more talk about who was the No. 1, who was the No. 2, and where were they seeded among each other, than (in) any year,” Wright said. “Usually you talk about who made the tournament, who didn’t get in the tournament. All the questions were about the top. I think that is indicative of the season.”
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger is returning to the Final Four for the first time since taking the Florida Gators there in 1994. This time he brings a team led by Buddy Hield and with a supporting cast that includes Khadeem Lattin — the grandson of David Lattin, a starter on the Texas Western team that won the title in 1966 — who grew up in Houston.
Kruger, a 30-year college coaching veteran, said this is the most wide-open season he’s seen.
“Because there’s so much balance, so many good players,” he said. “Probably as difficult of a seeding year as any could be … there’s so many good players, so many good teams. I think that makes it even more special to have a chance for these guys to play in the Final Four in a year where a lot of people could get there and everything was so competitive.”
After the furious comeback Syracuse needed to reach the Final Four, some wonder how the Orange will fare on Saturday. Boeheim scoffed at the notion that they might have a letdown similar to the one Texas A&M had in its game against Oklahoma after its comeback win over Northern Iowa in the second round.
After all, this wasn’t the first come-from-behind win for Syracuse in the tournament. The Orange downed Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 after trailing by 9 points late in the second half.
“We had a great comeback win against Gonzaga and got back to work two days later against Virginia, where we needed another comeback win,” Boeheim said. “We’ll be ready. That game will have nothing to do with the next game. We live in the future here. What you did yesterday, what you’re doing right now doesn’t matter. It’s what you do in the next game.”
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.