NEW YORK — The NCAA East Regional will take place March 28 and 30 at Madison Square Garden, and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim would love to coach his team in front of what would surely be a pro-Orange crowd for a shot at yet another Final Four.
“I like playing in New York. We’ve said many times we’re going to play in New York. We have a lot of Syracuse fans down here that live in this area. I think we’re in a tournament here next year…We like coming here. We’ve played a lot of games in Madison Square Garden, it’s a great place for college basketball,” Boeheim said after his No. 2 Orange fended off St. John’s, 68-63, in front of a pro-Syracuse crowd in a non-conference battle on Sunday.
It’s a little early to be thinking about who’s playing in what NCAA regions, but Syracuse remained undefeated at 10-0 with its win and it’s not outside the realm of possibility to imagine them playing in an East Regional at the Garden.
Syracuse, which will play its first ACC tournament this year in Greensboro, N.C., after being a member of the Big East since the league’s inception, has been to four Final Fours with Boeheim as head coach.
In 1987, they came out of the East Regional in East Rutherford, N.J., before losing to Indiana in the title game.
In 1996, Syracuse emerged from the West Regional in Denver and lost to Kentucky in the Final Four.
In 2003, Carmelo Anthony led the Orange to the NCAA title after coming out of the East Regional in Albany.
And in 2013, the Orange came out of the East Regional in Washington, D.C., before losing to Michigan in the national semifinals.
“We’ve had great success when we’ve stayed in the East and we’ve had great success when we’ve gone outside,” Boeheim said. “We got to the Final Four from Denver one year, we got there from Boston and Albany. I mean, that’s a little easier, you’re going to have more fans.
“If you can play in your region, that’s a huge factor. One of the reasons Duke and Carolina went to the Final Four about 25 out of 30 years was because the Regional was in Greensboro or Charlotte or some place every year. They had good teams but they also had the Regional in those locations every year.
“And people say neutral court, but that’s nonsense. If you can go to the Regional in your area it’s going to help you. We got there from New Jersey, we got there from Albany, we got there from Washington, D.C.
“So it’s easier to get there if you’re in your own area, there’s no question about that. But you just gotta play well and see what happens. Control your own destiny a little bit.”
Photo: Syracuse Athletics