After making the NIT the year before, the Syracuse Orange entered the 2002-2003 season with no national expectations of competing for a National Championship. Enter Carmelo Anthony. The freshman superstar paced the Orange all year averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds per game but he wasn't a one man show. Syracuse also added freshman Gerry McNamara and Billy Edelin to a core group led by sophmore star Hakim Warrick and veteran senior Keuth Duany.
The 'Cuse were long and deep with Coach Boeheim's 2-3 match up zone impossible to penetrate. All that added up to a 24-5 record, a share of the Big East West championship and a #3 seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament.
Syracuse cruised into the Sweet 16 with wins over Manhattan and Oklahoma State. Once there it took a big off the bench effort from Josh Pace (14pts) to escape Auburn 79-78. The zone ate Oklahoma up in the Elite 8 as Syracuse cruised to New Orleans and the 2003 Final Four.
After defeating T.J. Ford and Texas, 95-84, the Orange were in the National Championship for the third time in school history. Awaiting them was Roy Williams, Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison and the #2 seed Kansas Jayhawks.
Led by Anthony's 20 points and McNamara's hot shooting Syracuse clung to a 3 point lead in the final seconds. With 3 seconds to play Hinrich found Michael Lee in the corner for what seemed like an open 3 to tie the game. That's when Hakim Warrick came from the post to block the attempt essentially giving the Orange their first national championship.
"I'm happy, but I'm happy for all those fans. They packed the Carrier Dome and they follow us all over the country. I'm just glad we won for (Derrick) Coleman, Rony Seikaly, Sherman Douglas - all those guys." -Jim Boeheim, Head Coach
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