MBB : Syracuse motivated to reach Elite Eight with 2010 Butler loss still fresh in mind

first_img Comments BOSTON – The memories of the gut-wrenching defeat won’t fade. They can’t. They’re  permanently etched somewhere in the recesses of the head of each Syracuse player who sat in a tear-drenched locker room in Salt Lake City, Utah, two years ago.Images like that of Arinze Onuaku hiding himself in his locker behind a white towel don’t disappear. The black and blue logos emblazoned on the towel could not cover the black and blue bruises of the agonizing loss to Butler in the Sweet 16.‘I feel like it’s one of those experiences that you go through, and it’s always in the back of your mind,’ Syracuse junior forward James Southerland said. ‘You know how it is losing, so it’s like more will power and having the will power to win.’It’s been eight long years since the Orange has tasted the sweetness of a regional final, eight long years without playing for the chance to go to a Final Four. But a win on Thursday against Wisconsin pushes Syracuse into the Elite Eight for the first time since the 2003 national championship season. And the memory of having a magical season cut short by Butler in 2010 is fueling SU as it attempts to write its own history in 2012.Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, Brandon Triche and Southerland are the four SU regulars who experienced the heartbreaking loss to Butler. Now in Boston, the city from which Syracuse advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2003, they draw on that experience as motivation in hopes of avoiding further anguish.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘We just couldn’t believe it,’ Southerland said. ‘We kind of felt like we still didn’t believe it was over after we finished. It was kind of hard definitely. I’m not trying to experience that again.’Standing between Syracuse and a trip to the Elite Eight is a Wisconsin team that Triche likened to the 2009-10 Bulldogs that sent the Orange home early.Both Butler and Wisconsin are ferocious defensively, holding their opponents to miniscule point totals. Both Butler and Wisconsin have a roster bereft of NBA stars, relying instead on superior effort and coaching.Triche admitted that SU didn’t know a whole lot about that Butler team. So by the time the Cinderella Bulldogs wound up playing for the national title, Triche said the horrible feeling was worse.It could have been Syracuse.‘It was very sad. We were down,’ Triche said. ‘Even though we lost (Arinze Onuaku), we really thought that we could win.‘Them making it to the finals that year made it feel worse because it could have been us.’Wisconsin, though, is a slightly different story. The Badgers have caught the attention of many around the country this season with a pair of wins over Indiana, a win over Vanderbilt and the No. 14 national ranking before the start of the NCAA Tournament. Holding its opponents to less than 53 points per game has been quite the statement as well.The Bo Ryan-led squad is by no means a Cinderella. Instead, it’s arguably the best defensive team in the country.The Badgers will push the Orange on Thursday, but this time Southerland and Triche said Syracuse is ready to push right back.The weight of the disappointing loss in 2010 and the surprising early exit to Marquette a year ago have festered within the SU players to drive them through this final stretch of basketball after the best regular season in program history.Only twice since 1990 has the Orange advanced past the Sweet 16, and Southerland said it has been a goal for the team since he stepped on campus three years ago.‘We had great players and all. We’ve just never made it past the Sweet 16,’ he said. ‘Especially our first year, our freshman year. It’s tough, but it’s something we wanted to get through and something we want to work on and get further.’Despite the slew of questions and comparisons about Butler the Syracuse players faced in their media session Wednesday, assistant coach Gerry McNamara said this group is only playing for themselves.What happened in 2010, 2011 or even back in 2003 – when McNamara played a key role in SU winning its only national title – shouldn’t be on the minds of this year’s players, he said.Instead, it’s about this group writing its own history.Said McNamara: ‘These guys need to worry about this year. That’s all that matters. They’ve been able to do that to this point, so why change it?’[email protected] Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on March 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @Michael_Cohen13last_img