In continuation of the Fizz Four series, today we’re going to rank SU’s four best basketball rivals. However, this might not be the history lesson that some of the other Fizz Four lists have been. While some of Syracuse’s greatest rivalries were established well before 2020, conference realignment has changed the schools, players, and coaches that the fanbase currently despises. And not all rivalries are born from hate alone. Some can just spawn from great competition.
That’s where we begin at #4. Syracuse has had plenty of great basketball games since joining the ACC, but some of my personal favorites have been against Virginia. The Elite Eight win in 2016 (and Malachi Richardson’s three-point goggles), the upset of the ninth-ranked Cavaliers in the Dome the next year (Jim Boeheim’s 1,000th win before the NCAA sanctions), and last season’s “Buddy Bomb” in Charlottesville that led to a 63-55 OT victory.
I get it, some games against Virginia are tough to watch. Tony Bennett’s pack line defense leads to a lot of ugly possessions, and UVA isn’t exactly a powerhouse on the offensive end (the national championship year with Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome hitting trey after trey excluded). But since the Wahoos struggle to score at times, it means most of their contests will be close. Heck, even in last year’s monotonous loss there were moments when it seemed like the Orange were poised to make a comeback. Syracuse always seems to play Virginia pretty close, and it’s not because the players get that extra burst of emotion like they would for a bigger school, it’s because the talent level is usually similar on both sides. The Cavaliers aren’t the most notorious of rivals (they might not even be considered rivals by some fans), but Syracuse and Virginia will continue to compete in re-watchable contests, making it a matchup worth circling year after year.