The Syracuse Orange were a #1 seed in last year’s NCAA tournament. They would lose in the Elite 8 to Ohio State. Then they’d lose 3 players to the NBA (top scorer Kris Joseph, 6th man Dion Waiters, and center Fab Melo) and also starting PG Scoop Jardine would depart.
Hello rebuilding? Not so fast.
The Orange started the season fast, stumbled in February, and finished as a #4 seed. Nonetheless, they matched last year’s tourney march to the Elite 8, and exceeded it by at least a game by punching a ticket to the Final Four last weekend.
Not too shabby considering the losses.
Syracuse wasn’t alone however.
Louisville is back in the Final Four a year after losing their leading scorer, Kyle Kuric, 3rd leading scorer Chris Smith, and rotation player Jared Swopeshire. In their case, none were NBA-bound, and most people expected the Cardinals to be in Atlanta. I am still mildly impressed even if you aren’t.
I’ll give you something more to chew on now.
Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Florida, Marquette. The 4 Elite 8 losers and top seed Kansas. Think about what these schools were able to accomplish this season.
Duke lost 2 NBA 1st round picks (Austin Rivers and Miles Plumlee) plus rotation player Andre Dawkins.
Ohio State lost NBA first rounder Jared Sulinger and the 3rd leading scorer in program history, William Buford.
Kansas lost 2 All-American performers, their two leading scorers, Thomas Robinson and Tyshaun Tayler to the NBA.
Florida lost one-n-doner Bradley Beal to the NBA and starting PG Erving Walker.
Marquette lost it’s top two players, both drafted into the NBA, Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom.
That is a lot of talent lost, and yet those programs were undeterred in either getting back to where they were last year in the tournament or advancing even further a year later.
Heck, at least those schools are replacing great talent with more great talent. Wichita State doesn’t have the luxury of being a big-time program in a major conference. Yet, their story may be most impressive of all.
The Shockers lost their top five scorers (Joe Ragland, Garrett Stutz, Toure’ Murry, Ben Smith, and David Kyles) and instead of sinking into mediocrity in the Missouri Valley after a very successful season that saw them make the tournament as #5 seed and lose a thrilling game to VCU in the second round, they bounced back with almost an entirely new cast and crew and are playing in the Final Four. They lost 76% of their scoring from a year earlier, but added and developed new stars to go to a place the Wichita State program, and most 9-seeds, never see.
So next time your team loses key seniors, leading scorers, future NBA superstars, don’t let that make you think that you are looking at a rebuilding season. If you have tremendous coaching and recruiting, players with drive and focus, and a little luck; there are no losses that can’t be overcome.