February 27, 2010.
You know where you were.
If you’re like the other 34,615 that were with me in the Carrier Dome that day, that day is indeed ingrained in your memory.
If you’re reading this blog but weren’t at the Dome that day, surely you were watching on TV.
I am, of course, speaking of the Syracuse
vs. Villanova basketball tilt.
We all remember how much hype that game got. It was near the end of the regular season. It was College Gameday on ESPN. It was an Orange-Out the Dome day. It was a sell-out capacity crowd. In fact, it was declared sold-out weeks in advance. It was, at the time of the sell-out declaration, a potential #1 vs. #2 matchup. It would surely have Big East Conference and NCAA Tournament implications. It was easily one of the biggest college basketball games Syracuse had seen in years. We all remember that Syracuse won handily 95-77. We all remember that that victory secured at least a share of the Big East regular season championship for Syracuse [which later became solely Syracuse’s]. We all remember how Syracuse was voted the #1 team in all of college basketball that following week. We all remember how elated and overjoyed we felt after that game. We all remember the high expectations that carried through the rest of the season and postseason. All because of one game.
News flash, people. Villanova is visiting the Carrier Dome in nine days. So I have to ask: Why is nobody talking about this game?
Simply put, the January 22 matchup against Villanova is the victim of some awful timing. Consider the following:
· It’s a January game. January games don’t decide anything. It’s another game that either goes in the win column or in the loss column. Sure, no one win or loss is more important than the other, per se, but January games don’t carry the visible implications end-of-February games do.
· It’s not ESPN Gameday. Evidently not wanting to perpetuate the lie that Syracuse only plays home games, the Gameday crew is not visiting the Carrier Dome this season. Thus, this game simply receives noon coverage on the flagship. Hell, we’ll probably get stuck with Len Elmore on the call.
· Syracuse basketball is suffering from Syracuse having a good football season. I say this not to complain, but to point out that as of late, Syracuse fans have shifted their focus from football to basketball in early November, if not sooner. But not this year. As we all know, Syracuse football is merely two weeks removed from its Pinstripe Bowl victory at Yankee Stadium. We’re still kind of hungover from that (in more ways than one?).
· Syracuse basketball is in the midst of a tough stretch: putting aside the 1/1 game against Notre Dame and the 1/8 game at Seton Hall, the Orange have had to play 1/12 at St. John’s, and will face Cincinnati 1/15 at the Dome and Pittsburgh 1/17 at the Pete. To focus on Villanova right now would be to overlook two teams who, up until Cincy’s January 9 loss (against Nova, mind you) were undefeated in league play and had numbers next to their names.
· More football distractions. Syracuse fans seem to be obsessed as to whether Ishaq Williams will sign with the Orange, excited that Brandon Reddish did indeed sign with the Orange, and ecstatic that Paul “Coach P” Pasqualoni has been named the new head coach at UConn.
And yet, with all of that, here stands the Syracuse basketball team with a #4 ranking in both national polls, a perfect 17-0 record including 4-0 in the Big East, and a very real chance to move up to #3 come Monday, should the pollsters chastise Dook for losing to Florida State and not having another ranked team on its schedule the rest of the way. For the first time since I can remember, Syracuse basketball is not getting the hype that it deserves.
But let me qualify that statement. We’re all excited about Syracuse basketball. We all see how well the team can play when it wants to play well. We all have that cautious optimism about this team that we feel that if we get too excited or say the wrong thing, we’re going to jinx something and ruin the season.
And that’s okay with me.
Cincinnati on Saturday, Pittsburgh on Monday. Then we can really start gearing up for Villanova next Saturday. But in the meantime, please, can you just start thinking about it? Even if you don’t consciously do it, don’t worry. If you’ve made it to the end of this article, my job is done; I’ve planted the seed in your subconscious.