Top seed Virginia blows 16-point lead, Syracuse heads to Final Four

CHICAGO — One of the most dramatic, unexpected comebacks in Elite Eight history unfolded at the United Center on Sunday. A full-court press ignited a late 25-4 Syracuse run vs. No. 1 seed Virginia, and just like that, Jim Boeheim and the Orange are headed to Houston for the Final Four.

Syracuse defeated Virginia 68-62 in the Midwest Regional final and becomes the first No. 10 seed to make the Final Four in NCAA Tournament history.

The Orange, who many thought should not have even made the field, played stagnant basketball for the first 30 minutes. And then? A press and one of the more surreal runs you could ask for. This was done against Virginia, the ever-reliable team with an incredible defense. The Cavaliers entered the day ranked No. 1 in KenPom.

Top-seeded Virginia falls short of its first Final Four since 1984. Syracuse advances to the sixth Final Four in program history. The only No. 1 seed remaining in the field is North Carolina, which plays Notre Dame for the final spot in Houston.

With 9:32 remaining Virginia’s London Perrantes hit a 3-pointer to give the Cavs a 54-39 lead. Here’s what Syracuse did next:

Dunk by Tyler Roberson with 9:16 remaining. Virginia 54, Syracuse 41

Layup by Trevor Cooney with 8:43 remaining. Virginia 54, Syracuse 43

Two free-throws by Malachi Richardson with 8:23 remaining. Virginia 56, Syracuse 45

Layup by Richardson in the paint with 7:53 remaining. Virginia 56, Syracuse 47

Two free-throws by Roberson with 7:37 remaining. Virginia 56, Syracuse 49

3-pointer by Richardson with 7:12 remaining. Virginia 58, Syracuse 52

3-pointer by Tyler Lydon with 6:50 remaining. Virginia 58, Syracuse 55

Layup by Michael Gbinije on with 6:37 remaining. Virginia 58, Syracuse 57

Layup by Richardson with 5:50 remaining, capping a 22-4 run over 4:26 to give Syracuse a 59-58 lead, that it would not relinquish.

Virginia got behind by six points late because of the run, and Syracuse’s defense — combined with Virginia’s inability to effectively switch up its offense — sealed the Cavaliers’ fate. UVa was suddenly swimming in syrup. Anthony Gill hit a contested 5-footer to cut it to 64-60 with 1:42 to go. Malcolm Brogdon hit two foul shots with 26.9 left to make it a 64-62 game. SU’s Gbinije went 1-for-2 at the foul line on the ensuing possession. Devon Hall’s missed 3-pointer and ensuing two made foul shots by Lydon sealed the Syracuse upset.

The press, and of course Syracuse making nine of 10 shots throughout the course of the run, catapulted this team to one of the most unthinkable Final Four runs in history. It’s been an amazing season for Syracuse, and certainly one with odd bookends. Jim Boeheim was forced to sit for nine games earlier this season because of NCAA sanctions.

Richardson led Syracuse (22-13) with 23 points. Perrantes led Virginia (29-7) with 18.

Syracuse shocked Virginia to become the first No.10 seed to reach the Final Four. (USATSI)
Syracuse shocked Virginia to become the first No. 10 seed to reach the Final Four. (USATSI)

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