This weekend, the Carrier Dome certainly will not be rocking with the Orange that Central New Yorkers have become accustomed to since it opened in 1980. Instead, four teams will be playing for a right to travel to Indianapolis, and two of the four teams are very familiar foes.
On Friday, Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals will square off with the eighth-seeded North Carolina State Wolf Pack, who are fresh off of a win against top-seeded and longtime rival Villanova. That game features a matchup of ACC foes, both of which the Orange have played in the last five weeks.
The Orange toppled the then-twelfth-ranked Cardinals in the Dome for what many consider one of the biggest wins of the season. This time when Louisville takes the court, it will be facing a much different foe than SU. North Carolina State beat Syracuse in both teams’ regular season finale. The Wolfpack used that game as a launching pad into the ACC tournament, before falling to Duke in the quarterfinals.
In the later matchup, the seven-seed Michigan State Spartans will face off with a very good Oklahoma Sooners team. The Orange have much less history with these two teams, as the Spartans come from the Big Ten and the Sooners come from the Big 12. The Orange and the Spartans have played 17 times before, with SU leading the head-to-head series 10-7 including the last four in a row. The last time the Orange lost to the Spartans was in the Sweet Sixteen in 2000.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, has only played the Orange four times, most recently in 2009 when Blake Griffin led the Sooners to a convincing win in the Sweet Sixteen. Syracuse also beat Oklahoma on its way to a National Championship in 2003.
College basketball fans can get a chance to see all four teams practice tomorrow in the Carrier Dome for free starting at noon. North Carolina State will take the floor first, followed by Louisville. Then, Michigan State will practice, followed by Oklahoma. While it will be weird to see the Carrier Dome adorned with colors other than Orange, there will be three very interesting games played on the hill over the weekend.
Posted: Jason Weingold