Did You Go? Remembering ‘Melo and Syracuse’s Albany Takeover
I've spent the end of 2021 exploring some of Albany's most famous sports moments. As it turns out, the more I search, the better stories I find.
I've asked around, too. I've heard stories about Ron Guidry, and his memorable stint with the Albany-Colonie Yankees. I've been told tales of championship teams, of WWE all-time moments, and more.
A story that also came up, was that of the Syracuse men's basketball team in the 2003 NCAA Basketball Tournament. Led by freshman sensation, Carmelo Anthony, the Orange descended upon Albany for the East Regional semifinals, and brought with it an atmosphere at the then-Pepsi Arena that is still remembered to this day.
How good was Carmelo Anthony during the 2002-03 season? Well, he averaged a double-double that season, scoring over 22 points per game to go along with 10 rebounds. He was named a Consensus All-American for his efforts, and would eventually be named the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
'Melo was not alone, however, as he was one of four players who would end up averaging more than 10 points per game in '02-03. He, along with Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara, formed one of the most dangerous freshman classes in all of the nation, and senior Kueth Duany added a bit of veteran leadership to the group.
After beating Georgetown in the Big East quarterfinals, the first-seeded Orange were upset in the semifinals by UConn, who would go on to lose in the Finals to Pitt. Despite their loss, Jim Boeheim's group secured the third seed in the East Regional for the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
The Orange blew past Manhattan and Oklahoma State in Boston, setting up their trip to the Pepsi Arena for the East semifinals. In front of 15,093 screaming New York fans, the Orange would win a riveting game against Auburn in the semifinals, 79-78. Over 15K fans would pack the house two days later to see Syracuse stomp Oklahoma, advancing to the Final Four.
The magic didn't stop there, either, as the Orange would beat Texas and Kansas in front of over 54,000 fans at the Louisiana Superdome, winning the 2003 national championship.
Anthony would get drafted later that year, going 3rd overall to the Denver Nuggets. The team would continue to play well, making it to the Sweet Sixteen the following season. It was the 2002-03 team, and the run through Albany, however, that fans still talk about to this day.