SALT LAKE CITY — Jim Boeheim has his team in the NCAA Tournament for the 34th time and boasts a March Madness record of 56-32 over the years, so he's no stranger to losing in the postseason.
But coming back to Utah for Syracuse's first-round matchup against Baylor is stirring up memories of one of his more painful NCAA losses.
For Baylor coach Scott Drew, Salt Lake City is home to quite a few familiar faces, so he's happy to be here. To wit, Drew answered "absolutely" when asked if this is a special place for his team to play.
Those two coaches and their teams cap a full day of action at Vivint Arena on Thursday — scheduled to tip off at 7:57 p.m. on truTV — in what seems to be the most balanced matchup of the four tournament games in Salt Lake City.
Syracuse comes in with a 20-13 record and a No. 8 seed following an ACC quarterfinal loss to Duke, while Baylor enters the game with a 19-13 record and the ninth seed after finishing the season with four straight losses.
"I'm just happy to be here. Last year, we were in the NIT. It is not a good experience," Baylor's King McClure said. "So the fact we are here is a huge blessing. I tell all the younger guys, 'Enjoy the moment and be happy. Play with joy. When you go out there, don't worry about the crowd. Do everything you did coming in here to win.'"
It won't be surprising if Baylor has the bigger cheering section in Salt Lake City.
Not only has Drew's team scrimmaged Gonzaga here before, but there are a handful of connections to the Utah Jazz — from his former Bears Ekpe Udoh and Royce O'Neale to Baylor alum and Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey and his son, Jake. The younger Lindsey, who was redshirting at the Waco, Texas, school this season, announced recently that he's retiring from basketball because of medical reasons.
Drew said Jake Lindsey "talks about Salt Lake City every day." He added, "So we feel this is our second or third home."
Unfortunately, the Jazz are on a road trip, so Udoh and O'Neale won't be able to cheer on their alma mater as it plays in their building in Thursday's first-round matchup against Syracuse and perhaps Saturday.
As for Boeheim, he's still kind of harboring bitter feelings about nine years ago when the Orange came to town as the No. 1 seed of the West Region with high hopes of advancing to the Final Four for the first time since Syracuse won it all in 2003.
Standing in Syracuse's way in Salt Lake City: Gordon Hayward and his fifth-seeded Butler Bulldogs.
Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored, Matt Howard and Willie Veasley led Butler to the 63-59 Sweet 16 win over Wes Johnson & Co. at the building now called Vivint Arena. Thursday's game will be the first back in Utah for Boeheim.
That loss in the Beehive State, of course, was among the questions the longtime Syracuse coach was asked during Wednesday's media session: what kind of memories does he have from that 2010 experience?
"Not good ones at the end, that's for sure," Boeheim said.
Now in his 43rd season at the upstate New York school, the former Team USA coach does have some fond memories of Utah's capital, though.
"It's a nice city. We had a good time here," Boeheim said. "You get to go to a great Italian restaurant in Salt Lake, which I never thought would happen."
Boeheim wasn't referring to the place famous for its unlimited breadsticks and olives or the factory that cranks out oodles of spaghetti noodles.
"Valter's is here," he added.Comment on this story
This high-end Italian restaurant, featuring renowned chef Valter Nassi's culinary masterpieces, has gained quite the reputation in the sports world. Golden State is among the teams that frequently eat at Valter's Osteria when in Utah. Warriors coach Steve Kerr has even gone on the record saying it's his favorite restaurant on the NBA circuit.
Boeheim hopes to have more than a good culinary experience this time around.
"We lost our center and he was a big part of what we did," the Syracuse coach recalled. "But we played really well. It was a game that could have gone either way. Butler made a couple of threes at the end and that was the difference in the game."