The 30 Most Influential NCAA MBB Teams of SLAM’s 30 Years: ‘ 03 Syracuse

To celebrate SLAM’s 30th anniversary, we’re spotlighting the 30 most influential men’s college teams from our past 30 years. Stats, records and chips aren’t the main factor here, it’s all about their contribution to the game’s cultural fabric.

For the next 30 days—Monday through Friday— we’ll be unveiling the full list here. We’ve also got an exclusive retro collegiate collection, out now, that pays homage to each squad’s threads. Shop here.

An orange headband-donning megastar, Carmelo Anthony. The coaching genius of Jim Boeheim and a trademark 2-3 zone defense. The ‘03 Syracuse Orangemen always had what it took to be the best team in the nation. 

But no one really saw it that way. Not until they did the impossible, of course.

 Syracuse went into the 2002-03 season unranked and never reached the top 10 during the regular season. But with a blend of style, resilience, and sheer determination, they hoisted the first national championship trophy in program history, etching their names alongside a long line of NCAA tournament champions. 

Led by Jim Boeheim, the second-winningest coach in NCAA men’s basketball history, Syracuse embraced their trademark 2-3 zone defense, a maneuver that left opponents casting threes and fans dripping in orange paint roaring in joy on the fast break. Boeheim’s strategic acumen and ability to adapt his game plan to his team’s strengths were the pillars on which the success of this historic Syracuse team would be built. 

That isn’t to say that the squad was nothing more than just a revolutionary defensive scheme. It was the leadership of Kueth Duany, the second senior on the team. It was Gerry McNamara, a sharp-eyed sniper from behind the arc. And it was Anthony whose gravity-defying dunks and iso-shooting mesmerized all college basketball fans alike.

The freshman sensation hauled Orange County to the national spotlight as soon as he stepped foot onto the sprawling upstate campus. At 18 years old, Melo had it all—the self-confidence, the fearlessness, the stuff that separates good from great.  

With a stellar regular-season record of 24-5, including a Big East regular-season title, the Orange stormed into the NCAA Tournament with a chip on their shoulder and a hunger to prove everyone wrong. 

Starting their campaign in Boston, Cuse cruised past Manhattan and Oklahoma State in the first two rounds. The No. 3 seed then traveled up to New York, where they survived a narrow one-point win against Auburn and took down Oklahoma to reach the Final Four. 

Whenever the Orangemen found themselves in trouble, they turned to the team’s jab-stepping, bucket-getting savior: Carmelo Anthony. The Brooklyn, N.Y. native worked his magic in isolation en route to a 20-point double-double in the Elite Eight. And then he went nuclear in the Final Four, exploding for 33 points and 14 boards. 

Ultimately, the team’s season came down to one game: the national championship showdown against the No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks. In a back-and-forth battle for the ages, the Orange dug deep, drawing on every ounce of grit and determination they possessed to walk away with an 81-78 triumph. (Replace with above? – The stage was set for a national championship showdown against the No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks. The Orange stamped the mardi gras-colored court with an electric display. McNamara was scintillating in the first half, knocking down six treys, while the growing legend of No. 15 was cemented with a 21-point performance. With Hakim Warrick’s game-sealing block, a bright sea of orange erupted as a pile of players in orange unis and warmups cascaded at half court. 

In a back-and-forth battle for the ages, the Orange had secured their first-ever NCAA Championship behind the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Carmelo Anthony.)

Before they knew it, the freshman-heavy squad of Orangemen would soon decorate headlines, magazines and walls at Syracuse University—and their legacy still lingers on campus.

Photos via Getty Images.

Check out our Latest News and Follow us at Facebook

Original Source

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *