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.
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