How do you measure a successful home season?
An obvious answer would be the amount of wins a team piles up at home. Sure that’s a good reason, but it can’t be the only one.
Perhaps it’s not necessarily the wins, but those special games that really had a “have to be there” feel to them.
Perhaps it can be measured in number of losses. The fewer the losses, the better the home season had been.
Or, perhaps it can be measured by the team you’re watching. How special that team is and what a thrill it was to watch them in person all season long.
There’s no reason it can’t be all those reasons together.
The Syracuse Orange wrapped up its home season in the Carrier Dome last Tuesday, crushing St. Johns and winning its first outright Big East championship (non-shared) since 1991.
In doing so, Syracuse also covered all of the reason’s above and made it one of the best seasons to watch The Orange under the big bubble (how nice is it not to be talking about that other bubble this time of year).
Perhaps even the best season to watch The Orange at The Dome since 2003.
That 2003 team managed to go undefeated in the Dome, a perfect 18-0. A very rare feat for a Syracuse team. So rare in fact, that a team that’s so good like this year’s team couldn’t even replicate that accomplishment.
In this article we’ll take a look at the season that was at The Dome. We’ll look at the special games that took place there this year. We’ll take a look at the two disappointing, but ultimately not damaging, losses The Orange suffered this year at home. Finally, we’ll take a look at what makes The Carrier Dome one of the most unique College Basketball venues in all of America.
The out of conference home schedule is always an interesting one with regard to Syracuse.
It’s by far the best, and easiest, time to find very good seats at an incredible bargain. Big company sponsors that have stockpiled seats and season ticket holders are more likely to part ways with their good seats at this point in the season.
It’s no coincidence those tickets get harder to find and much more expensive once the Big East portion of the season starts (Those Villanova tickets on Craigslist were cheap, weren’t they?).
The crowd is usually a mixed bag for these games, but there’s never any doubt that they love their Orange and will root just as hard for these games as they do any other time in the season.
Regardless of all that, it was still fun to watch the Orange dominate the out of conference home schedule, and cruise to a lot of double digit victories.
The first special moment of this great season came in the very first home game. Perhaps it should have been an omen for what was to come for the remainder of the season.
Jim Boeheim was sitting on 799 wins when The Orange tipped off against the University of Albany Great Danes to open the Dome season.
A thorough domination of Albany not only put to rest all those fears coming off the exhibition loss to Division 2 Lemoyne, but also notched that tremendous 800th win for the Hall of Fame Syracuse coach.
It was a great moment for those in attendance at The Dome that night (yours truly was part of the 15,707), and the dominating win set the tone for the rest of the OOC schedule.
The only other really notable OOC game came when the Memphis Tigers visited The Carrier Dome. If not for anything else, it was because Memphis was a big-name opponent which had been very good the past couple of years.
For the 17,805 fans at that game, it was a bit of a sloppy performance to watch (something Boeheim repeated in his not-so-happy press conference afterwards), but, as has been the modus operandi pretty much all season, The Orange turned on the jets in the second half and came away with another double digit win.
The average point differential in Syracuse’s OOC wins at The Dome this year was a staggering 28 points.
Suffice to say, it was dominating basketball all the way,
Of course, around Syracuse, the real excitement doesn’t really begin until Big East season starts in the loud house.
How much more exciting can it get than a ten point loss to hated Pittsburg to open the Big East Dome season?
Oh, right. Not very exciting at all.
Yes, that loss put a damper on what had been an almost flawless season up to that point. It did, however, show that to beat The Orange, a team is going to have an almost flawless effort themselves – and get a lot of help from Syracuse.
Pitt played an all around excellent game, and Syracuse missed more easy layups that it became impossible to keep track of them.
Ashton Gibbs, who has proved to be an outstanding player for the Panthers this year, lit it up from outside and hit backbreaker three’s all game.
It was a tough loss, a disappointing and an angering one for all those Orange bleeders who loathe the Panthers (Safe to say that’s all of Orange Nation), but one that The Orange could learn from.
And learn they did.
The Orange rattled off a slew of good wins at The Dome after that Pitt game, the majority of them by double digits.
And then Georgetown came to town with a Pittsburg state of mind.
Perhaps one of the best games to be at in The Dome any year is the Georgetown game. The heated rivals always makes for an entertaining game, and the 26,508 raucous fans on hand for that game saw firsthand how good it can be.
In that game, Georgetown jumped out to an unbelievable 14-0 lead. They were absolutely on fire, and it looked like, for a moment, that Syracuse may get blown out at The Dome by a team that makes any Orange fan’s blood boil.
The Orange faithful got a special treat that game though. From the moment that the Hoya’s scored that 14th point, Syracuse played what many have considered to be almost perfect basketball for the rest of the game, and came away with 17 point victory.
Blowing out your rival at home after spotting them two touchdowns is always an awesome feeling.
That game was a special game to be at, and proved that Syracuse is a team that when it turns it on and plays to its full capacity, is going to be a very hard team to beat, no matter how good the opponent is.
A hard fall for Wes Johnson against Providence, and a murky referee call that has been discussed ad nauseum, made for some interesting highlights in the next few games following the Georgetown blowout.
Then came the Louisville game. Along with Pittsburg, The Cardinal has been a team that has had Syracuse’s number lately, on the road or at home. A former assistant for Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino is very familiar with how The Orange operates and almost always brings a great game plan when preparing for Syracuse.
It’s no surprise then that Pitino came up with a great strategy that his players executed superbly. His zone confused The Orange (what an oxymoron that is), and his legendary full court press harassed them nonstop.
Louisville slowed the game to almost a snail’s pace, nailed some clutch shots and, even though The Orange actually had a chance to tie the game at the end, came away with a six point win.
Louisville is a team Orange Nation has come to not be so fond of lately, so this loss was another tough one to swallow.
Even tougher to swallow was that The Orange would be playing Louisville again at Freedom Hall in Kentucky. It’s always disappointing to lose the home game of an in conference home-and-away series.
But, life is all about moving on, and sports imitate life to the fullest.
The Orange put the loss behind them and we all began to focus on the next game under The Dome.
The Villanova Game.
The game of the year at The Dome, no doubt. The game Orange Nation had been anticipating for weeks and months to come.
No one could quite know what to expect from a sold out Dome and a game that was ESPN’s spotlight game that Saturday.
Without a doubt, this was the game to be at in The Carrier dome this season. Even sitting in the very last row, row ZZ, it was incredible to take in the sea of Orange that surrounded the court.
I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like that before at The Dome. The Loud House was the loudest it had been all season, and maybe the loudest it had been in a few years.
The game didn’t disappoint either, as The Orange put on an absolute show and throttled Villanova. The second half was so pretty to watch, and not one of the 34,616 in attendance left before the final buzzer.
The Final Four atmosphere, the crazy crowd, and the game actually living up to its hype (If you’re an Orange fan that is) made this the most special game at The Dome this year.
What better way to close out the home season with a game against St. Johns then?
Well, there’s probably a couple of better ways to do it.
But, this game was special in its own right.
It was senior night for two of the Orange’s best and most beloved players in Arinze Onuaku and Andy Rautins (and a Faux senior night for soon to be NBA player Wesley Johnson), and a win would guarantee The Orange a Big East regular season title.
26,081 showed up to make sure that this wasn’t just another game against lowly St. Johns.
26,081 fans said goodbye in person to one of the greatest Syracuse teams ever.
26,081 fans left knowing that this was the end to a great Dome season, but also left believing it was just the beginning to the greatness that could come.
And that, as they say, was that.
The Dome season was wrapped up and the two losses had been forgotten about by a slew of spectacular and cathartic games.
The Carrier Dome itself is quite an interesting venue. Syracuse is the only team in College Basketball that shares its basketball stadium with its football stadium. That being the only reason they can even fit 34,616 in there, and the reason Syracuse owns so many attendance records.
It’s funny, and curious, how The Dome is set up too. Starting with the student section.
In most, if not all, college basketball venues, the Student section is on one side of the court going lengthwise.
Most of the time, it feels as if the students are right on top of the players, mainly because they almost are, usually being mere inches from the court.
However, The Dome doesn’t institute this practice. Whether it’s to capitalize on making money with those premium seats or for some other reason, is unknown. But the students at The Dome fill out a section behind the basket on the home side of the court.
This has its positives and negatives.
The positive is that it makes it harder for the opposing team to shoot on that basket, because you’re shooting, basically, right into the wild student section.
However, it takes away that claustrophobic feeling other stadiums offer. The people that line the side of The Dome aren’t students, and most of the time, aren’t as wild as the students are or would be if they lined the sides of the court.
In a venue that’s so large anyway though, it may be impossible to replicate that claustrophobic-ness no matter where the students would sit.
The most curious thing about this set up is that the opposing team always shoots at the student section basket in the first half. Meaning that in the second half, they are no longer shooting into the students, because behind the other basket are the regular fans.
Now, these fans are no slouches themselves, but it’s truly impossible to duplicate a full student section, and I wish they would fix this so at least the opposing team is shooting into the student section in the second half.
The last thing to mention about The Dome is the professional-type atmosphere it brings.
Being so large, and fitting so many people, and having the season ticket holders on the sides of the court almost gives it an NBA type feel.
But, thinking about, it makes sense. The Orange is Syracuse’s professional team. They are the only show in town and The Dome treats it as such. The Orange has always had a professional type feel to it and The Dome perfectly enhances that feeling.
The Dome is an awesome place to watch a college basketball game at. The great things about it far outweigh its few flaws, and there is absolutely nothing like seeing 30,000+ fans screaming their faces off and having your ears ring for days after.
Never been to a game at The Dome? Get to one, soon. It’s an experience like no other.
The end of Syracuse Basketball season at The Dome always feels a little funny.
The Dome is never quite the same again until the football team invades it in August. And for die-hard Orange basketball fans, it’s not the same until November.
However, while The Carrier Dome may remain relatively empty until that time, its echo’s will reverberate a spectacular season by The Orange this year, and one we were all privileged to watch.
And we can all take solace in knowing that The Loud House will be rockin’ for years and years to come.
Farewell for now Carrier Dome, my ears are still ringing.