It only took four tries but the Syracuse University men's basketball team has won an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament game. It's hard to believe this is the Orange's fourth season as a member of the ACC.
It still doesn't feel right. Before Syracuse's game against Wake Forest Tuesday night, a taped package of great moments from previous ACC tourneys was shown. There were the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Duke Blue Devils, NC State Wolfpack and other conference stalwarts. There weren't any Syracuse clips that I saw. Nor should there be.
It still feels weird that Syracuse is in the ACC and not the Big East. Instead of playing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn this week, they should be at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, the "World's Most Famous Arena." Instead of playing Wake Forest and North Carolina, they should be squaring off against Georgetown or St. John's.
It's not easy to put aside more than 30 years of memories — Leo Rautins scoring the tourney winner at the Carrier Dome in 1981 or Pearl Washington lighting up the Garden against the Hoyas and Patrick Ewing in the mid 1980s or Gerry McNamara single-handedly leading SU to the 2006 title game.
It's still a fresh wound, even though it's been four years since Syracuse fled the Big East for the ACC. The Big East as we knew it is forever changed. UConn is gone and while Villanova, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Providence and St. John's are still there, Butler and Crieghton have changed its look.
We all know why Syracuse left the Big East — money and power. The Big East was getting out of football and Syracuse needed a major conference to keep its program from fading into irrelevancy. Basketball was a big bonus since the ACC is one of the biggest brands in the sport.
Despite the intentional efforts of television and the school, the Orange haven't developed any bad blood with its ACC rivals yet. Don't say Duke. The Blue Devils would laugh in your face, North Carolina is the team they love to beat. The match-ups against NC State, Virginia, Wake Forest don't whisper, much less scream, rivalry.
And the ACC games against former Big East foes — Pittsburgh, Boston College, Notre Dame, Louisville and Miami — don't feel special either. Syracuse basketball doesn't feel like Syracuse basketball anymore. Maybe it's the last couple of years of so-so results or the increasing number of players who leave after a season or two but the Orange seem to have changed as a program since entering the ACC.
The lone constant is Jim Boeheim. The Hall of Fame coach has shown no desire to retire and with his youngest son joining the Orange next season, it's unlikely he's leaving anytime soon. Boeheim seems to like coaching in the ACC. Then again, Boeheim could be coaching in a CYO league and he would enjoy it.
Boeheim is the last tie to the Big East but as we know, no one coaches forever. There will come a time when a new generation of Orange fans will only know the ACC. By then, maybe Syracuse will be as much a part of ACC history as North Carolina and Duke. I doubt it will be in my lifetime.