After 39 years in coaching and 31 celebratory Selection Sundays, Jim Boeheim said this was "the happiest I've been on Selection Sunday ever."
To many, his bubble-living Syracuse team was a surprise -- and somewhat controversial -- addition to the tournament field, but Boeheim believed his team deserved to be in the postseason all along. He just wasn't sure the committee would see it the same way.
The 10th-seeded Orange in the Midwest will play No. 7 seed Dayton on Friday in St. Louis.
"This team was in a hole and dug its way out,'' Boeheim said, referencing his team's five wins against top-50 opponents. "It looks like the committee valued top wins, which they always have. It's always been that way, and I'm glad they recognized what we did.''
Boeheim said he was more worried about whether the committee would value his team's résumé than whether it would factor in his nine-game absence due to NCAA violations.
After the Orange lost to Pitt in the ACC tournament, he said his team had "been punished enough," and that the committee should take into account the team's 4-5 record without him as head coach.
"[Selection Committee chair] Joe Castiglione said from the beginning he wasn't going to punish this team,'' Boeheim said. "Their job was to pick the best teams. I was disappointed that some former committee members said we didn't belong and then didn't put their name to it. If I make a statement, I put my name to it. I think you're a real coward if you say Syracuse doesn't belong in but don't identify yourself. I don't have a lot of time for people like that.''
Boeheim believed his team's five wins against top-50 teams would be enough to merit the at-large selection, and effectively negate the Orange's 13 losses this season.
As the bracket was revealed, with teams such as Oregon State, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt earning a spot, he said his confidence grew.
"I was happy for these [teams] because they've been through a lot,'' he said. "Obviously you change the coach, you go through that and you stumble a little bit and you're 1-4 in the league to start. This team fought and played remarkably well all things considered.''