Syracuse Orange: Their 10 Most Hated Basketball Rivals

Joseph BurnsContributor IMay 2, 2012

Syracuse Orange: Their 10 Most Hated Basketball Rivals

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    Over the past 10 years, Syracuse has had a pretty good decade when it comes to basketball success.  A national championship.  Two Big East Conference regular season titles and two more in the tournament.

    Along the way, the Orange have squared off with many college basketball teams, but there are only a handful of rivals.

    Here are the 10 most hated teams for the Syracuse Orange from the past decade.

Honorable Mention: The Basketball Blue Bloods

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    There are only four schools in NCAA Division 1 history with more wins than the Syracuse Orange:  Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and Duke.  Those are the "blue blood programs" that seem to always find themselves getting a little more publicity, buzz, and accolades than everyone else.  

    And with good reason.  These teams have won five of the last 10 NCAA titles.  Whenever one of the "blue bloods" are on your team's schedule, your fans get excited. And if your team prevails against them, regardless of how strong their roster is in any given year, it's a signature win and a highlight during any season.

    Syracuse Win-Loss Record (since 2003) vs. Blue Bloods: 3-0 

    Most Memorable Moment: Led by freshman sensation Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse defeated Kansas, 81-78, to capture Coach Jim Boeheim's first National Championship in New Orleans in 2003. 

    Worst Loss: There are none.  Syracuse is 3-0 against the Blue Bloods.  The Orange defeated the Jayhawks in 2008 in the final game of the CBE Classic in Kansas City. The North Carolina Tar Heels also fell to the Orange in 2009 in the championship game of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.  

    Boeheim's bunch has not faced Duke or Kentucky during this stretch, although Orange fans probably still spend some nights laying awake thinking about what could have been if the Orange were healthy and had a chance to play against the Blue Devils in the 2010 national championship game or this past year against the Wildcats in the national title game. 

    If we only had our center(s)...

10. Le Moyne Dolphins

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    Let's begin the countdown close to home.  Two-and-a-half miles from campus to be exact.  Almost every year, the Syracuse Orange welcome the Division II Le Moyne College Dolphins to come on over to the Carrier Dome for a friendly exhibition.  That's right... exhibition.  We don't want the Dolphins messing up our RPI or strength of schedule.

    This is not a rivalry.  I don't even think the Syracuse Orange players know Le Moyne College is located two miles from their dorm rooms.  The game is usually a lopsided blowout victory for the Orange.  It serves as an opportunity for the Orange fans to watch five Syracuse walk-on players play basketball in the final minutes of the game, maybe get some free washer fluid and tacos! (NOTE: Students, alumni and game-attendees at the Carrier Dome will understand that last sentence)

    Syracuse Win-Loss Record (since 2003) vs. Le Moyne: 5-1 in mostly exhibitions. 

    Most Memorable Moment: There are none.  The game is rarely even televised.  BTW, why does a college located in central New York, where it snows 100 inches each year, name themselves the Dolphins?

    Most Agonizing Loss: It didn't count, but Le Moyne shocked Syracuse in 2009.  Don't believe me? Here are the highlights.  The Dolphins probably celebrated pretty hard that night in Armory Square.  The loss didn't phase the Orange, they opened the season winning their first 13 games and finished with only three losses during the regular season on their way to the Big East Conference regular season title and a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

9. Vermont Catamounts

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    Does the name T.J. Sorrentine make your blood boil?  

    In 2005, the Orange, led by senior Hakim Warrick, had a pretty disappointing season.  They didn't have a signature win in conference play, and limped into the Big East Tournament, with national media pundits debating whether they even deserved to make the Big Dance.

    Then they turned it on.  They rolled through the Big East Tournament to win the championship and were rewarded for their impressive week with a No. 4-seed and an opening round game against the No. 13-seed Vermont Catamounts ("Catamount" is a fancy word for "Wildcat").

    The Orange were a dark horse to make a run at the Final Four.  Only one problem, they couldn't tame the Cats.  It's a game Orange fans will never forget, because it was an abrupt end to the 2005 season.

    Syracuse Win-Loss Record (since 2003) vs. Vermont: 1-1 

    Most Memorable Win: These teams have played only twice and the teams split in those games.  No. 1-seed Syracuse defeated the No. 16-seed Catamounts 79-56 in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.  It was a lopsided victory, but most Orange fans spent the week leading up to the game haunted with memories of what happened in 2005 and wondering if the Orange would find themselves as the first 1-seed ever to fall to a 16-seed. 

    Most Agonizing Loss: Ugh... I don't want to talk about it.  If you enjoy inflicting pain on yourself... here are the last two minutes.  Gus Johnson's commentary makes it even worse.

8. Pittsburgh Panthers

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    For the past decade, the Pittsburgh Panthers have dominated the Big East Conference, piling up 116 conference wins, the most of any school.  

    Regardless of how they are projected to finish, head coach Jamie Dixon and the Panthers have created a system and recruited the players that usually get them to the top of the standings at the end of the regular season.  Simply put, they are at the head of the class in the Big East.

    Dixon and his Panthers are also a thorn in Boeheim's side.  Syracuse does not play well against the Panthers; it seems their toughness and defensive-mindedness bring out the worst in the Orange.

    However, Syracuse has had the last laugh in post-season play.  They have more Big East Tournament titles (two to the Panthers' one), Final Four appearances (one to zero) and national championships (one to zero). 

    Syracuse Win-Loss Record (since 2003) vs. Pittsburgh: 4-10 

    Most Memorable Win: Syracuse defeated the Panthers in the final of the Big East Tournament in 2006.  They were also the first team to defeat the Panthers on their home floor at the Petersen Event Center.  Those are two very good candidates.  However, the most memorable win was in 2003 at the Carrier Dome.  The Panthers came into the game ranked No. 2 in the country.  The Orange overcame a 13-point second-half deficit to win, 67-65. 

    Most Agonizing Loss: The worst loss came in 2008 when the Orange held a four-point lead with 90 seconds left in the Carrier Dome and the Panthers came back to shock the Orange, 82-77.  With both teams squarely on the bubble, it all but assured Syracuse a trip to the NIT.

7. Marquette Golden Eagles

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    The Marquette Golden Eagles share a special place in the minds of all Syracuse fans.  When they made their memorable run to the Final Four in 2003, on the other side of the bracket was the little known Golden Eagles and their senior guard Dwyane Wade.  They were the "dark horse" team in New Orleans and, little did we know, a soon-to-be-member of the Big East Conference.  

    Syracuse was deprived a matchup with Marquette in the 2003 national title game, but when the Golden Eagles joined the conference, the teams have clashed seven times.

    Marquette plays feisty defense and usually relies on beyond-the-arc shooting to win games.  The defense usually frustrates and turnover-prone Orange.  The three-pointers are one of the surefire ways to expose the weaknesses in the 2-3 zone.

    To be honest, when I made this countdown, I was shocked to see we've only lost twice to Buzz Williams' team, but one of those losses was pretty devastating and is why the "Blue and Cheddar" make the list.

    Syracuse Win-Loss Record (since 2003) vs. Marquette: 5-2

    Most Memorable Win: In 2012, behind senior Kris Joseph's 17 points, the Orange avenged their loss to Marquette that ended Syracuse's season a year ago.  The victory improved the Orange to 17-0 and kept them atop the polls the following week. 

    Most Agonizing Loss: The Golden Eagles ousted the Orange from the 2011 NCAA Tournament in the third round, preventing the Orange from reaching the Sweet 16 for the third straight time.  Marquette junior guard Darius Johnson-Odom hit a three-pointer with 20 seconds left to seal the Golden Eagle victory and, much like the shocking loss to Vermont in 2005, Gus Johnson provided the soundtrack to this one, too.  

6. Louisville Cardinals

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    There are many reasons to point to when deciding why to dislike the Louisville Cardinals.  Perhaps because head coach Rick Pitino and Boeheim have found themselves squaring off in big games.  Pitino defeated Boeheim's Orange in the 1996 national title game when he was at Kentucky.  Then, there was the 2009 Big East Tournament title game, when the Cardinals upended the Orange's run at their third title in the decade.

    But it's not just the big games, it's every game.  Louisville (and Pitino), much like the Pittsburgh Panthers, have owned the Orange.  They do all of the things that give Syracuse problems and, as a result, frustrate fans of the beloved Orange.  

    The 2009 loss to Louisville in the Big East Tournament was expected; they were the 1-seed and the conference regular season champions.  However, the most painful clash with the Cardinals came the following year.  In 2010, Syracuse was 0-2 against Louisville and 30-3 against everyone else.  

    Syracuse Win-Loss Record (since 2003) vs. Louisville: 3-7 

    Most Memorable Win:  Riding a five-game winning streak against the Orange, Louisville and Syracuse faced off in the Yum! Center on Big Monday in 2012.  The game was ugly, but the Orange overcame a 5-point deficit in the last three minutes to prevail on the road, 52-51.  

    Most Agonizing Loss: The Orange played Louisville to close out the season in 2010 in the last game ever played at Freedom Hall.  Syracuse went into the game as the number-one team in both polls.  Behind the sharp-shooting of sophomore Kyle Kuric, who scored 22 points off the bench, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, the Cardinals defeated the Orange for the second time in 2010 and knocked them out of the No. 1 ranking.

5. Villanova Wildcats

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    The Big East is a competitive league.  It is NEVER okay to lose a game in conference.  You want to dominate and defeat everyone on the schedule.  

    However, anytime you get beat by a team whose coach takes more time in front of his wardrobe than he does in front of his whiteboard, it stings.    

    Head coach Jay Wright, with his Armani suits and pocket squares, and the Villanova Wildcats have become one of the the Orange's feistiest opponents.  Year in and year out, they are typically right on par with Syracuse from a talent standpoint.  If Syracuse is a top-tier team, Villanova is there like they were in 2010.  If the Orange is in the middle-of-the-pack and fighting for a NCAA Tournament berth, so are the Wildcats, like they were in 2008.  

    This is why each match-up with Villanova always tends to matter.  The Orange are always playing for something, and the Wildcats are the ones standing in the way.

    Wright recruits guards, like Scottie Reynolds and Malik Wayans, who penetrate the 2-3 zone and find their teammates open looks from long-range, leaving the Orange (and their fans) extremely frustrated. 

    Win-Loss Record (since 2003) vs. Villanova: 7-8

    Most Memorable Win: On February 27, 2010, in front of a record crowd of 34,616, the Syracuse Orange blew out the Villanova Wildcats, 98-78, to become the No. 1 team in both polls.  It became the first time since 1990 the Orange was ranked as the top team in the country. 

    Most Agonizing Loss: In 2006, it was the last home game at the Carrier Dome for senior guard Gerry McNamara.  All of the pre-game ceremonies honored McNamara.  It was an emotional atmosphere. McNamara put on a show by scoring 29 points, but the Wildcats disappointed the home-crowd winning 92-82.

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Somewhere over the course of the last decade, if not before then, Syracuse became a basketball school.  It might have officially began when Carmelo Anthony (and I) stepped foot on campus in the Fall of 2002. 

    I couldn't tell you a time when I ran into a football player during my four years at school.  I probably did, I just didn't realize who they were any more than I would have been able to spot a tennis player. But I still remember the times I saw forward Hakim Warrick in Flint Hall, guard Gerry McNamara on South Campus, center Craig Forth in the Shine Student Center and superstar Carmelo Anthony in Manley Field House.

    My memories of the football team? Sitting at the Carrier Dome and watching quarterbacks R.J. Anderson and Joe Fields throw incomplete pass after incomplete pass, forcing the Orange to go three-and-out for what seemed like the 100th time of the first half and asking myself "When does basketball season start?".  This is just part of what it means to be a basketball school.

    590 miles down the road from Syracuse University sits another campus where the opposite is true.  The University of Notre Dame is a football school.  Period.  End of story.  From head (most often helmeted in gold) to toe, their students care more about what happens on the gridiron.  Basketball season is what passes the time between football season and the Blue-Gold spring football game.

    In short, if you are a basketball school, like Syracuse, you do not (and should not) lose to football schools, like Notre Dame in basketball.  So when it happens, it's frustrating and unacceptable.

    Win-Loss Record (since 2003) vs. Notre Dame: 9-5 (and 2-1 vs. Fighting Irish in football) 

    Most Memorable Win: In 2003, in front of a crowd of 32,116, including 2,000 who were bused in from Scranton, Pa., Syracuse found themselves down 80-79 in the final minute.  Freshman guard Gerry McNamara hit a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left to lead the Orange to an 82-80 win over Notre Dame. 

    Most Agonizing Loss: The Orange went into the Joyce Center at 20-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country.  They were missing their monster-in-the-middle and future Big East Defensive Player of the Year, sophomore center Fab Melo, due to an academic suspension.  The Orange got beaten up on the glass and on the scoreboard.  The Fighting Irish won, 67-58, and handed Syracuse their first and only loss of the 2012 regular season.

3. Butler Bulldogs

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    I became a Syracuse fan in Fall 2002 when I enrolled as a freshman.  In that time, I've seen ten different iterations of the Orange and when it comes to the most talented teams, the 2010 roster, led by junior Wesley Johnson and senior Andy Rautins was every bit as good as the 2003 national championship team with freshmen Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara.  

    Some college basketball analysts still consider the 2010 Orange as the best team in the country that year, even though they were never handed a trophy or cut down a net.  It was just the belief that if the Orange were at full strength, with senior center Arinze Onuaku in the paint, they would have given Boeheim his second national title and elevated him to an even more elite status among the coaching greats.

    The Orange lost Onuaku in the Big East Tournament and did not have him for the March title run.  Then, they ran into Brad Stevens and his Cinderella-team from the little-known Horizon League, the Butler Bulldogs.  Led by senior and NBA lottery pick Gordon Hayward's perimeter shooting and junior Matt Howard's play down-low, Butler put an end to short-handed Syracuse's 2010 campaign.

    Every Orange fan hates the Bulldogs and still have nightmares about the Sweet 16 loss. 

    Win-Loss Record (since 2003) vs. Butler: 0-1 

    Most Memorable Win: None. However, when the Orange and Bulldogs cross paths again.  I hope it's a lop-sided victory to Syracuse.  It won't heal all the wounds from 2010, but it'll start the process. 

    Most Agonizing Loss: 2010 West Regional Semifinals.  The 4-seed Butler went into Salt Lake City and shocked the No. 1-seed Syracuse. The Bulldogs overcame a 4-point deficit with 2 minutes left in the game to defeat the Orange.

    And what-do-ya-know, Gus Johnson was at this game, too. 

2. Connecticut Huskies

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    Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun and Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim know each other pretty well.  They have both built successful basketball programs and have tasted success at the highest level.  The two coaches have been the sole national title holders for the Big East Conference in the last decade, winning three of the past 10 titles.

    Unfortunately, Connecticut has reaped more of the rewards.  The UConn Huskies have won two national titles and reached three Final Fours.  The Orange only have one of each.  

    It is a rivalry where you can throw out the records.  Both teams play each other tough and usually these two squads play more than once each year, sometimes even three times.

    What is most frustrating for an Orange fan is Connecticut seems to always be just a little better than the Orange every year and for whatever reason, Calhoun has Boeheim's number.

    Plus, how annoying is the "U. C. O. N. N. UConn. UConn. UConn." cheer?

    Win-Loss Record (since 2003) vs. Connecticut: 10-11 

    Most Memorable Win: In a rivalry as heated as UConn-Syracuse, there are a lot of good wins.  However, the most memorable of them also happens to be the longest game in NCAA history.  40 minutes and then six overtimes in the 2009 Big East Quarterfinals in Madison Square Garden.  Sophomore guard Jonny Flynn had 34 points and played 67 (of the 70) minutes in the 127-117 victory over the Huskies.      

    Most Agonizing Loss: The 2011 Syracuse Orange were not going to win the national championship, but they had an opportunity to snag some hardware when they reached the semifinals of the Big East Tournament and a meeting with familiar foe, No. 9-seed Connecticut.  The Orange were down six points with 25 seconds left.  Junior guard Scoop Jardine hit back-to-back three pointers to force overtime.

    Another six-overtime classic? Not this time. Senior guard Kemba Walker and the Huskies were too much, defeating Syracuse 76-71 on their way to a Big East Tournament title and a national championship.     

1. Georgetown Hoyas

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    The Georgetown Hoyas and the Syracuse Orange have hated each other for a while.  It goes back to the 1980s.  As an Orange fan, you are trained to hate the Hoyas.

    Syracuse is a basketball school, rooted in success and tradition, and continually relevant on the national basketball landscape each year, as well as a contender in the Big East Conference each season.

    Georgetown is a joke.  Their fans.  Their players. Their coach (and his in-game coaching ability).  The Hoyas haven't gotten past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2007.  

    As an Orange fan (who lives in Washington, D.C.), I can honestly say I despise everything about Georgetown basketball.  It is hilarious each year to see the Hoyas and their fans so desperately want the school to be a real basketball school, only to play games against marquee opponents, in a half-empty gym nowhere close to their campus.

    The Orange fans actually take over the Verizon Center when they play the Hoyas "on the road".  It's such a problem for Georgetown that the last time the two teams played in Washington, D.C., Georgetown refused to sell tickets to the general public for fear that once again the Orange would take away their home-court advantage.

    The ticket sales gimmicks didn't prevent Otto's Army from infiltrating the Verizon Center.  The place was still packed with Orange fans and the Syracuse faithful celebrated the victory afterwards.   

    Win-Loss Record (since 2003) vs. Georgetown: 13-5 

    Most Memorable Win: Every time Syracuse beats Georgetown, especially on the road in Washington, D.C. when the Verizon Center is packed with Orange fans, it's memorable.   

    Most Agonizing Loss: They are all agonizing.  However, in the 2010 Big East Tournament Quarterfinals, the Hoyas defeated the Orange on the scoreboard, 91-84.  But the worst part of the loss was the injury suffered by senior center Arinze Onuaki in the second half which caused him to miss the NCAA Tournament.