|1980-1981 Syracuse Orangemen|
|Overall||22-12||NIT Finals||Schedule Results|
|Big East||6-8||Big East Champion (Tournament)||Previous||Next|
Coach: Jim Boeheim
|Tony 'Red' Bruin||So||F||33||16||150||272||55.2%||89||130||68.5%||34||111||92||6||-||-||-||389||11.8||1.0||3.4|
Syracuse would play for the first time in five seasons without the Bouie'N'Louie show. They had an experienced backcourt led by seniors Eddie Moss and Marty Headd, and senior Danny Schayes was finally given his opportunity to be a starter. Three talented sophomores in Erich Santifer, Leo Rautins, and Tony Bruin were expected to contribute. The real big news on campus however, was the Orangemen moving from the friendly confines of Manley Field House, where they had some much success in the past, to the new expansive Carrier Dome.
The Orangemen started off the season well, winning seven of their first eight games. Their only loss in that stretch was to Michigan in the Carrier Classic finals, before a then Syracuse Record crowd of 18,662. The team would then go through a cold spurt, losing ten of their next eighteen games. The Orangemen would play well at home in the DemiDome, but struggle on the road at 4-8 (including bad losses to Seton Hall and St. Bonaventure).
On February 9th, the team would beat Georgetown 66-64 on a last second driving jump shot by Headd. They would play before 26,257 fans on February 14th, a new school record, in a game they would eventually lose to Connecticut 65-63.
The Orangemen finished the regular season at 15-11, knowing they would have to do well in the Big East Tournament to make it to the post season. Bad news hit the team as Marty Headd broke his wrist in practice. Santifer would shift to Headd's position, and Bruin would join the starting five. The one advantage the Orangemen would have was that the Big East Tournament was being played in Syracuse that year, giving them a home court advantage. And they would use that advantage, beating St. John's 71-66 in the first game, and nemesis Georgetown 67-53 in the semi-finals. The sophomores were leading the way with Rautins and Santifer the leading scorers in the first game, and Bruin the leading scoring against Georgetown.
Bruin would lead the Orangemen in scoring again against Villanova in the Big East Finals. But the game would end up tied after regulation and go into overtime. And then overtime two more periods. At the end of the third overtime, Rautins tipped in a missed shot with 3 seconds remaining to give the Orangemen the lead 81-80, and the Orangemen would win the Big East Championship 83-80. Rautins would be named the tournament MVP, while Bruin and Santifer joined him on the all-tournament squad.
Unfortunately, the young Big East conference did not yet have an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, and the Orangemen were snubbed by the selection committee, snapping their streak of eight consecutive seasons with a tournament bid. They would instead be invited to the NIT tournament.
The Orangemen moved through the NIT tournament fairly easily with wins over Marquette, Holy Cross and Michigan as their fast break offense was running well. Bruin and Santifer were flourishing on the scoring end, and Rautins was becoming a triple threat with strong rebounding, scoring and assists. They would beat Purdue 70-63 in the NIT Final Four, and face Tulsa in the finals. The game was close and ended a tie in regulation. Unfortunately, Schayes, Bruins and Rautins had all fouled out of the game at that point. Syracuse would play tough in the overtime period but eventually lose to Tulsa 86-84. Santifer, the loan 'scorer' still on the court at the end, had a game high 29 point on 13 of 19 shooting from the floor.
The Orangemen would set school records for total attendance with 329,066 fans, an average of 16,453. These numbers were huge at the time, though would be dwarfed by the end of the decade.
©RLYoung 2005, 2006