Georgetown and Syracuse: The End of an Era at the Carrier Dome

Updated: February 23, 2013

For those of us who were lucky enough to follow the Big East Conference during its infancy, it’s hard not to feel a little bit nostalgic over the fact that today will be the final time that rivals Georgetown and Syracuse will play against each other in the Carrier Dome as members of the same conference. 

With all due respect to schools such as Connecticut, St. Johns, Villanova, and Pittsburgh, the preeminent powers in the Big East when college basketball was first exploding on a national level were Georgetown and Syracuse.  These two schools have engaged in a decade’s long series famous for its larger than life coaches, star players, physical nature, and ridiculous amount of down to the wire finishes.  The original linchpins of the rivalry were the men occupying the sidelines during its early stages – Jim Boeheim (still going strong) and John Thompson (his son JT III is now carrying the mantle), and the mutual respect they had for each other despite the intensity of the matchups has permeated over time through great players such as Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Allen Iverson, Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas, Carmelo Anthony, and Gerry McNamara.

Although there has been talk of possibly extending this series in the future, with Syracuse joining the Atlantic Coast Conference next season and Georgetown forming a conference with the six other Big East basketball-only catholic schools, it’s evident that this rivalry will have a completely different feel going forward. 

Enough with the uncertainty of the days ahead though, let’s focus on what is shaping up to be a vintage confrontation this afternoon between these two historic adversaries. 

Similar to the UNC-Duke series, it has been commonplace for these squads to field competitive games versus one another regardless of their respective records.  It just so happens that both Syracuse and Georgetown are strong this season, working to provide today’s game a little extra juice knowing that the stakes are high and that each team has a legit chance to make the Final Four in April. 

With at least a share of first place in the Big East on the line, the eighth-ranked Orange (22-4, 10-3) enters today’s game having won 38 in a row at the Dome (16-0 this season).  The recent return of James Southerland to the lineup has added some desperately needed scoring punch to compliment the overburdened trio of Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, and always erratic Michael Carter-Williams.  Syracuse has two straight games, rebounding from a rough patch in which they dropped three consecutive road contests. 

The Hoyas on the other hand are currently the hottest team in the Big East, making the seven points Syracuse is laying at the moment somewhat surprising.  Led by Big East Player of the Year candidate Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown has won eight games in a row and in relatively short order managed to completely turnaround what had been an up and down season.  The Hoyas have been putting it all together during their recent run of victories, though the environment they are walking into today is a completely different animal. 

Georgetown will be heading into a sea of orange, as more than 35,000 people plan on occupying the Carrier Dome at some point later today.  This contest is primed to set an NCAA attendance record for an on-campus basketball game, breaking the previous mark of 34,616 set back in 2010 when Syracuse hosted Villanova.  Adding to the festivities will be the retiring of Carmelo Anthony’s jersey at halftime.  The current NY Knicks star led the program to its only national title in 2003 and becomes the 10th Syracuse player to have his jersey retired. 

Given the storied history of these two proud programs, I fully expect today’s game to be an emotional one for the players, coaches, and fans.      

Time marches on and even the things we love about sports are subject to change, so enjoy this one while you can.     

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