Syracuse Orange No. 1 and Deservedly So

Adam McNerneyContributor IMarch 2, 2010

It’s been a long time coming Syracuse. How long? Well, if you want to be technical about it, it’s been since 2003.

I’m referring to, of course, the Syracuse Orange basketball team being ranked No. 1, in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today coach’s polls this week (and by a wide margin in the AP poll). Yes, the Orange was ranked a unanimous No. 1 after the 2003 season. That was of course due in part to a little something known as “winning the national championship.”

The Orange haven’t actually played as a No. 1 since way back when it was still considered the Orangemen (those were the days weren’t they?). Syracuse played as a No. 1 for about six weeks in the 1989-1990 season.

That’s over twenty years ago. Almost unfathomable to think that such a quality, top tier program can go so long and not be ranked No. 1 at least once.

Well, if they didn’t deserve it during that long stretch of time, they certainly deserve it now. Some people have Kansas, still, as their No. 1. I don’t buy it, because I don’t think, right now at least, that the Jayhawks deserve it.

There are all kinds of crazy criteria each individual voter uses to determine the No. 1 team. Some point to road wins—something Syracuse clearly has excelled at. Some point to the strength of conference and opponents. Some point to NBA players on a given team.

What we can mostly all agree on is that when a team loses, especially a team in the top five, it will almost always drop down in the next week’s poll. It’s that simple. Kansas lost. Kentucky lost. Purdue lost. Syracuse absolutely dominated a very good team on Saturday night. The Orange has as many losses as both Kentucky and Kansas, but it won.

End of story. You win, you move up. You lose, you go down. And with the way Syracuse has been winning this year, there’s no question that this week it deserves its first number 1 ranking in two decades.

But what does this all mean? A great point I read in an article over the weekend is that it’s a good thing this isn’t college football, because in the end, these rankings don’t matter a whole lot. This grand scheme will still be decided on the court when March Madness starts in a few weeks.

And what person who bleeds orange isn’t excited for the madness to begin?

It’s nice to still get the recognition though, and it’s absolutely awesome to be able to say “our team is No. 1.”

And can you really even question that this team doesn’t fully deserve it?

Even if you look past all the criteria with voters, this team showed on Saturday that when it wants to dominate another good team, it can do it and make it look pretty.

The Orange have done it all season.

And despite all the people who have claimed all season that Syracuse is the top team in the nation, is there any better time to be ranked No. 1 than the last regular season in March? I think not.

So take it in Syracuse. Stare at this page all you want. You fans proved on Saturday that not only does this team deserve it, but that you deserve it also.