There are only a few true rivalries in college basketball. Duke-North Carolina has always been the gold standard, Kentucky-Louisville has existed for a long time, and Indiana-Purdue are some of the bigger names in the sport. But, at the height of the Big East, there may not have been better games or heated moments than Syracuse-Georgetown.
The Orange and the Hoyas have a long history, starting with John Thompson’s famous line in 1980 regarding the closing of Manley Field House. SU leads the all-time series 52-45, but Georgetown took down Syracuse 79-75 in DC last December.
It was one of the most dispositioning losses of the season for SU, who led by double-digits at one point and collapsed to a Georgetown team that ended the year with a 6-25 record. Colgate, Georgetown, and Pittsburgh highlighted an ugly trifecta of losses for the Orange last season, but now, SU has a chance for redemption.
But, how much does that redemption mean? The rivals have played every year since 2015 since Syracuse left the Big East in 2013, with some great moments (Tyus Battle) along the way. But, as much as the fans of the Big East hate it, the games just do not feel the same.
If you asked 100 Syracuse students who they thought Syracuse’s biggest rival was, and what game(s) mattered most to them throughout the season, at least 75 would not have Georgetown in the top three. It’s all about Duke, North Carolina, and whoever else is good in the ACC that year, and maybe even the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
For Syracuse fans of the 1980s and ‘90s, this surely has to be tough to read, but it is the truth. The juice is just not there between these two teams anymore. It does not help that they are not perennial top-25 teams anymore, specifically the struggles of the Hoyas.
Even with a legend like Patrick Ewing manning the sidelines, Georgetown has managed just one magical run to the NCAA Tournament in Ewing’s tenure as coach, while Syracuse has made a living off magical runs over the last decade or so.
The strength of the matchup, lack of historical knowledge, and timing of the matchups, which are usually in late December/early January when students are either leaving or not on campus, making it even more difficult to build excitement.
Syracuse-Georgetown is sadly a dying rivalry. To save it, the two teams need to make multiple changes. Move the date of games up to early December, get more talent on the floor, and make the players care.
To them, it’s just another game. Duke is not. North Carolina is not. That’s not how it should be. Georgetown should be the most fierce, passionate game on the schedule, as it was for decades. It just does not matter to everyone (besides maybe Jim Boeheim) as much as it used to.