|1974-1975 Syracuse Orangemen|
|Overall||23-9||NCAA Final Four||Schedule Results|
|"Drive for Five"||Previous||Next|
Coach: Roy Danforth
Syracuse hoped to make their fifth consecutive post season action, and begain their 'Drive for Five' in 1975. It was going to be a tough road, as three starters had graduated, including high scorer and playmaker Dennis DuVal. The one benefit the Orangemen had was the return of seniors Jimmy Lee and Rudy Hackett, who between the two would provide experience at both the inside and outside game.
High flying Chris Sease joined Hackett in the front court along with the large (kindly put) Earnie Seibert at center, and Larry Kelley at guard. The Orangemen started out 6-2, with some easy victories and some frustrating losses. The offense wasn't moving as well as Coach Danforth would like, so he replaced Kelley with sophomore Jimmy 'Bug' Williams. Williams was a different style of player, up-tempo, with a strong desire to drive the lane. The insertion of Williams into the lineup charged the Syracuse offense, and the Orange fast break began to run smoothly.
The Orangemen were 11-2 and on the verge of cracking the top 20 when they lost to Boston College 79-73 in February. The team struggled over its next eight games, going 3-5, including a loss to West Virginia where the Orangemen blew a 21 point lead. The team seemed to be playing more as individuals, than as a unit during this time, and at 14-7, Danforth was concerned about making the NIT Tournament.
The team regrouped and started a series of impressive wins to close out the regular season. In the ECAC tournament they easily beat Niagara behind Sease's career high 28, and then beat St. Bonaventure with a monster game from All-American Hackett, who had 32 points and 21 rebounds. The Orange earned the automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament and finished the regular season 20-7.
The NCAA tournament turned out to be a Cinderella story of sorts. The first round the Orangemen played LaSalle. The game went down to the wire, and LaSalle had a chance to win in regulation but missed the last shot. In overtime the Orangemen took the lead first on two Hackett free throws and never trailed, winning 87-83.
Next they faced the formidable North Carolina Tarheels. The Tarheels game planned to stop Hackett, double teaming him to shut him down, and Hackett struggled. However, Lee stepped up and consistently nailed the outside jumper and the Bug drove the lane throughout the game. Syracuse was down by one with five seconds to go when Lee made a 18 foot jumper shot from the left of the key to give the Orangemen a 1 point lead. Carolina had a chance to win, but turned over the ball. Williams was fouled and went to the line, making one of two free throws, as the Orange won 78-76.
Next the Orangemen met Kansas State. Hackett was not going to be stopped in this game. The Orangemen trailed by two as regulation was ending, when Williams fed Hackett the ball beneath the basket, and he layed it in to tie up the game and send it into overtime. The Orangemen played well in the extra period, and winning 95-87, and moving on to the first Final Four in school history!
The Orangemen met a talented #2 ranked Kentucky team in the Final Four. And unfortunately for the Cinderella team, clock struck midnight as the Wildcats were too strong, consistently outrebounding the Orangemen. Kentucky went on to win 95-79.
The NCAA had a Final Four consolation game back then, and Syracuse took on the formidable Louisville Cardinals. Louisville was a heavy favorite, but Syracuse took them to overtime before they lost.
Syracuse headed home proud of the best post season finish in school history. Jimmy Lee was the leading scorer for the entire NCAA tournament field and made the all-tournament team.