We all know the importance of college basketball rivalries.
Twice a year, two colleges who have some reason for animosity towards each other decide to get 20,000-30,000 of their students and fans together under one roof to play a game that often possess the same electricity as a conference or national tournament game.
With the Orange and Hoyas, the hate goes back to Abigail Adams and has continued from the the creation of the Big East, the closing of the Manley Field House and battles between Boeheim and the Thompsons.
On this February night, when the 11th-ranked Hoyas come to the Carrier Dome to play the 13th-ranked Orange, it is Syracuse who will be under pressure to perform.
Both teams are 7-4 in conference play, but Georgetown has been the hot team, just recently defeating a Villanova team that pummeled Syracuse in Philadelphia. Syracuse, on the other hand, has had a very well chronicled struggle over the last few weeks. Losing four in a row stung, especially when one was to Seton Hall at home.
While a win at UConn shows that Boeheim still has control of the locker room, losing five in a row just doesn't happen. South Florida obliged in its role of whipping post for the Orange, but after a four-game skid that dropped Syracuse from the one-seed contention pool, some wins, especially at home, are needed for an offense that needs confidence.
While Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph have been machines all year, the supporting cast has yet to respond consistently when called upon. Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche have shown potential to take over a game in the absence of the big two, while freshman C.J. Fair has been pleasantly surprising. Throw in Baye Moussa Keita and Dion Waiters and this is a team with potential to get very hot at the right time.
But the four-game stretch of basketball hell showed 'Cuse fans that young teams can also get just as cold.
Another four-game skid and 'Cuse could be a very, VERY difficult spot come March. The scary thought is that losses to Georgetown (ranked 11th), at Louisville (16th) and West Virginia (25th) are all very possible. Following a winnable Rutgers game, 'Cuse gets a second crack at both 'Nova and the Hoyas in their houses.
That's five of the final seven games against ranked opponents.
That's why this game means so much to the Orange. Best-case scenario: A win starts an impossible-to-stop train of a team, ending with the Orange earning back a one-seed.
A loss could start a spiral that ends with the Orange finishing 22-10, at worst 20-12.
The Dome will be rocking, the teams will be pumped and a classic rivalry will be renewed. So c'mon, 'Cuse! You know you have to win this one, for the fate of Boeheimburg rests in your hands.
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