Now however, I am releasing my Top 5 teams Syracuse wants to dismantle in basketball. The season is almost here and I’m excited to see what Jimmy can do without the beloved Gerry McNamara. With that, here are the Top 5 teams that Syracuse wants to destroy the most.
#5 St. John’s University
The Red Storm were one of the original members of the Big East Conference, joining in 1979. Back in the 80’s, Syracuse battled St. John’s, with legendary coach Lou Carnesseca and NBA great Chris Mullen, and created one of the premier rivalries in the Big East. Although St. John’s has had a rough couple of years, Orange fans still remember the early years of the Big East and the great games these two programs have had. The Red Storm start my list at #5.
#4 Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish joined the Big East in 1995, but Syracuse first played ND in the 1913-14 season. Since then SU and ND have gone back and forth in domination over the years. With famous ND coach Digger Phelps at the helm from 1971-1991, he and Boeheim had some scrappy games over the years. SU has won the last 3 games however, and Mike Brey, current head coach, can’t seem to solve the Orange. SU hosted ND for College Game Day in the 2004-05 season, and won a narrow victory. This rivalry was also cemented when Gerry McNamara played for Syracuse, because he originally wanted to go to Notre Dame. These teams seem to hate each other when they play. Therefore I’m putting this team at #4 on our countdown.
The Panthers, under Ben Howland and now Jaime Dixon, have done a great job in the last few years of making Pittsburgh a top competitor in the Big East year in and year out. They won the Big East Tournament in 2003, as well as 3 straight regular season titles from 2002-2004. The Panthers play in the Petersen Events Center, nicknamed “The Pete”. Opening in 2002, the Panthers were undefeated at home until the Orange came to town in 2004, when Jim Boeheim and his boys declared that “The Pete is now open.” Along with that, Carl Krauser’s scrappy guard play and cockiness on the court made this team easily disliked by the Orange Fans. Thus, I’m putting them at #3.
One of the most famous and bitter rivalries in the Big East, I can honestly say that these two teams hate one another. Harkening back to the days of the first John Thompson, the Hoyas won or tied for the Big East regular season title 5 out of the first 10 years of the conference, winning the National Championship in 1984. In 1980, before the Men’s Basketball team moved to the Carrier Dome, they played Georgetown in the last game played at Manley Field House. The Orange lost a close game and John Thompson declared over the loudspeaker “Manley Field House is now closed.” Ever since that day there has been a strong hatred between the Orange and the folks from G-Town. Currently under the helm of his son, John Thompson III, the Hoyas are resurging. However, after losing to the Hoyas at the MCI Center in DC, the Hoyas lost a close game in the semi-final round of the 2006 Big East Tournament, really renewing the rivalry in my opinion. Also helping lately, the fact that Syracuse, before winning the National Championship in 2003, beat Georgetown in all 3 meetings in the 2002-03 seasons. Because of the history of these two programs, as well as the many meetings between them, this is definitely worthy of #2... and Georgetown still sucks.
#1 The Connecticut UConn Huskies
When Jim Calhoun was hired for the 1986 season the Connecticut program was struggling behind traditional Big East powerhouses like Syracuse, St. John’s and Georgetown. By 1988, The Huskies were playing for the NIT Championship. You know the stats (10 Big East regular season titles, 6 Big East Tournament titles, 2 National Championships), but really, this rivalry is about 2 teams playing in the most physical basketball conference in the nation. Two Hall of Fame coaches going out there and giving it to each other is what its all about. In the last 2 seasons, Syracuse has been beaten in the Dome and down at Gampel Pavilion and the Hartford Civic Center. However, they had their revenge on UConn in the Big East Tournament defeating them en route to the Big East Title. Magical things happen for the Orange in Madison Square Garden. In 2006 Syracuse beat #1 Ranked Connecticut in the second round of the tournament by 2 points in overtime, in what most people would call the “greatest Big East Tournament run in history”. This is the premier rivalry in the Big East over the last several seasons, with two excellent coaches and historic programs. Thus, the Orange want to beat UConn the most. I’m sure the Huskies feel the same about us.
Again, I hope this spurs a debate in the blogging community, as well as the fans of Syraucse and this blog, and that you learned something about the history of these programs and rivals of Syracuse. I look forward to the reprieve from football coming soon. Until then, lets home the Orange can win a few games on the gridiron before taking it to the hardwood.
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Here Matt Glaude is hard at work researching all things Syracuse to bring them right to you via Orange::44 and the fanhouse. Stay tuned for more from this man.