2016 Final Four Guide

Jaipuriar: SU’s Final Four run rekindles Orange pride

What a time to be alive: one school, two teams, Final Four.

Whenever I heard the phrase “bleeding orange” in the past year, from Syracuse University tour guides or upperclassmen, I thought it was just another of those clichés — another cute attempt to make our school mascot more appealing. Oh, how naive I was as a first-semester freshman.

The resurrection of SU basketball proved that this campus and city does indeed bleed orange. After both the men and women’s basketball teams advanced to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament, Syracuse students were loud and proud anywhere and everywhere, including Castle Court, Chuck’s Cafe and Kimmel Food Court. Despite the initial shock that the men’s team got into the tournament and many March Madness brackets breaking along the way, this postseason reaffirms the fulfilling campus culture at SU.

There was just something about the one-shoed Tyler Lydon 3-pointer that turned the tide and reinvigorated an anxious audience. When the Final Four became a reality, the final buzzer at 68-62 was a thrilling you-had-to-be-there moment. Monday morning classes were forgotten, upcoming papers and projects were neglected and sleep was optional. All rightfully so — this was a historic moment demanding celebration.

It took this postseason success to finally understand the special nature of the Syracuse community bond. When I chose SU, I was excited about going to a huge Division I basketball school. But upon arriving, I was surprised to see that the “school spirit” was extremely underwhelming. Although tailgates were impressive and sporting events were pretty well-attended, I was still disappointed to see students being pessimistic about the state of the basketball program and dismissive of its student athletes.

Student Association Vice President Jane Hong said she felt similarly when she first reached campus, not completely understanding “bleeding orange” until the men’s team reached the Final Four in 2013 during her freshman year. She also said that being passionate about school spirit doesn’t come right away — it’s “something you have to live through.”

“It’s just crazy because you know that not every single student watches every single basketball game, and even if we enter a tournament (you know) they haven’t watched (all the) games,” Hong said. “But now that (Syracuse is) starting to win, it’s not even bandwagoning. It’s just that the spirit and energy is so contagious that you can’t help but be a part of the celebration.”

Fortunately, students have the opportunity to take that energy to Houston to cheer on the men’s team as they battle the University of North Carolina. Buses sponsored by SA left Thursday night with the 165 students who are embarking on a 1,600-mile journey to experience a sweet slice of Syracuse history.

Sophomores Bobby Szigeti and Josh Tusang began camping out at Schine Student Center at 4 a.m. on Wednesday to reserve bus seats. By 12:45 p.m., they were finally toward the front of the line, when only about 60 tickets were left. Tusang said going to see the game live was a no-brainer, but he didn’t take into account the length and intensity of the trip until after purchasing tickets.

“I can honestly say I didn’t think about anything whatsoever,” Tusang said. “Once I saw the email (from SA President Aysha Seedat) I just bought it and was like ‘I’m going.’”

In acknowledgment of this significant occurrence as something that students should take advantage of, Szigeti said, “In Jim we trust.”

Missing out on infamous tailgates and parties on campus to take a tedious and tiring trek for a team so many people doubted is an amazing validation of fan loyalty. Even more astounding is that no one saw this success coming.

To sweeten the deal, the women’s team also advanced to the Final Four, making SU the 12th Division I school to have the men’s and women’s teams in this round. Though the men received more attention at first, the women are also starting to gain support. As of Thursday, after SA surveyed student interest, transportation was also offered to Indianapolis to watch the women’s Final Four game against the University of Washington.

So to all the naysayers: Syracuse started from the bottom with a self-imposed ban, now the Orange is here with both teams in the Final Four. If these past few weeks have proven anything, it’s that students’ genuine love and passion for SU is as bright as the fireworks that were going off the night of the wins.

“The energy was definitely different last year, but just like Syracuse has always taught everyone: it’s about perseverance. And I think once you’re an Orange fan, you’re always an Orange fan,” said Hong. “And that energy is always felt because you have a connection to the community. So even if it doesn’t happen one year, it’s going to happen again in the future, and that’s what’s exciting — holding on to that hope.”

Syracuse’s school pride has been defined by that hope, so continue to hold on to it. Even though some students may care more about sports than others, now, thanks to two amazing teams and a little bit of luck, Syracuse students are more bound by orange blood more than ever.

Rashika Jaipuriar is a freshman broadcast and digital journalism major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at rjaipuri@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @rashikajpr.


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