The Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry all stems from one incident back in February of 1980, when the Big East was still in its infancy and Syracuse was planning their move into the Carrier Dome.
After the Hoyas notched a come-from-behind victory over then-No. 2 Syracuse, legend has it that John Thompson Jr. grabbed the microphone told the crowd of orange-clad spectators that “Manley Fieldhouse is now closed“.
Georgetown and Syracuse would both go on to become powerhouse programs in the 80’s, with both teams reaching the national title game during that decade, which certainly helped build the profile of the Big East conference into the best basketball league in the country. So maybe those two teams were destined to become rivals, but it sure does become easier — and much more intriguing — when the two best teams in a league despise each other.
That quote from Georgetown’s notoriously grumpy head coach helped shape the way we view college basketball today, so it’s fitting that, in the final time Syracuse will host Georgetown as members of the same conference, the Hoyas picked up a win and moved into first place in the Big East. Throw in Otto Porter’s offensive explosion and appearance on the radar of National Player of the Year voters, and it would be easy to forget that Syracuse suddenly does not look like a top ten team or a title contender.
They’ve lost four of their last eight games. Two of those losses came with James Southerland back in the lineup. Brandon Triche looks like he’s prepping for another late-season swoon; his 29-point explosion at Seton Hall does a good job of hiding his struggles during February. Michael Carter-Williams hasn’t been consistent as a play-maker and the Orange lack a go-to guy late in games, a fact that is particularly obvious when Carter-Williams and Triche are struggling.
It’s not time to be concerned just yet.
Three of those four losses came on the road to NCAA tournament-caliber teams in league play, and I’m not sure there is a team in the country playing better basketball right now than the Hoyas. Syracuse didn’t lose to DePaul or South Florida. The faithful denizens of Upstate New York can step away from the ledge for now.
But it may be time to readjust our expectations for Syracuse this season.
Without consistency from their back court, Syracuse is not going win the Big East and they are not going to make the Final Four. It’s that simple.
And there may not be a better way for Georgetown to exact their Big East revenge than exposing that fact.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.