Syracuse Basketball: A Look at Boeheim's Lone Championship Season a Decade Later

Nick LantzCorrespondent IIJanuary 24, 2013

NEW ORLEANS - APRIL 7:  The Syracuse team (including Most Outstanding Player Carmelo Anthony #15, center) celebrates while wearing their championship tee shirts and caps after the victory against Kansas in the championship game of the NCAA Men's Final Four Tournament on April 7, 2003 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Syracuse defeated Kansas 81-78 winning the National Championship.  (Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images)
Craig Jones/Getty Images

It has been 10 years since the Syracuse Orange Men's basketball team won the NCAA National Championship.

The astonishing 2003 NCAA tournament title was coach Jim Boeheim's only championship and the first for Syracuse, who were then named the Orangemen. Ten years later, Syracuse remains one of the most elite programs in the country.

However, they have not returned to the Final Four since.

Who can forget the magical season that Boeheim's team had that year. They recruited the top small forward in the country, Carmelo Anthony, who is now one of the best players in the NBA as a member of the New York Knicks. They also added the scrappy sharpshooter Gerry McNamara to run the point. Those two players will be remembered as some of the best in Syracuse basketball history.

The team was composed of five freshmen and had just one senior, Kueth Duany. The young team also relied on three sophomores: Hakim Warrick, Craig Forth and Josh Pace. Along with Melo, Warrick would go on to be drafted and has bounced around a few NBA squads. McNamara is now an assistant on Boeheim's staff.

After being unranked to begin the season, the young Syracuse squad had to fight hard to earn national respect. In the first game of the season against the Memphis Tigers, Anthony instantly showed signs of stardom. He finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds, but Syracuse would still end up losing 63-70.

After the loss, the Orangemen won their next 11 games before losing on the road to the Pitt Panthers at the Petersen Events Center, one of the toughest places to play in college hoops.

Syracuse would eventually get their revenge on the rival Panthers at the Carrier Dome just a few weeks later in one of the most exciting games of the season. Syracuse would win the game 67-65 in one of the craziest finishes imaginable. Pittsburgh was No. 2 in the country at the time and the raucous crowd stormed the court three separate times.

As time ran out, Cuse fans poured onto the floor, but there was still time left on the clock. Pitt's Brandin Knight hit a 40-foot shot as time expired, but the crowd stormed again anyway. After Boeheim had to come over the loud speaker to tell the crowd to get off the floor, the officials ruled that Knight's shot came just after the clock hit zero and the fans went storming again.

The Orangemen would go on to finish 13-3 in the Big East as well as go undefeated at home that season. After a tough Big East tournament loss to UConn, Syracuse would earn a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Cuse would escape the East Region with a dominating win over Oklahoma, putting them in the Final Four. Syracuse continued to roll past Texas in the Final Four 95-84, setting up a Championship matchup with the Kansas Jayhawks.

In the National Title game, the two teams would fight back and forth right down to the wire. The highlight of the game came as time was running out and Kansas had a chance to tie. The Jayhawks' Michael Lee was wide open for a corner three, but Warrick came out of nowhere to make the biggest block of his career. Kirk Hinrich then missed a desperation three-pointer and Syracuse would prevail 81-78.

McNamara hit six three-pointers and Anthony dropped in 20 points in the game. Anthony's No. 15 will be retired next month for Syracuse and McNamara's No. 3 would ideally be the next number to be retired. The 2002-03 season found Syracuse with a 30-5 record and the most important prize of all: a National Championship trophy.