- C.L. Brown, ESPN Staff Writer
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History shows Syracuse officially opened ACC play against Miami and Virginia Tech, as its 2-0 record and tie atop the standings attest. It has been 10 seasons since the Hurricanes and Hokies joined the ACC, but realistically the Orange didn’t do much more than play an old Big East game against those two.
That changes Saturday when the Tar Heels visit the Carrier Dome.
Forget for a second that North Carolina is unranked. These are still the Tar Heels of Michael Jordan. Of legendary coach Dean Smith. Who wear the hint of elitism with their own brand of blue and their argyle patterns on their uniform. Winners of five NCAA titles.
When the Orange, a charter member of the Big East, made the decision to abandon the old league for a new neighborhood on Tobacco Road, Carolina and Duke were the schools that generated the most buzz.
And now that moment is here for Syracuse. Even if the moment might not be as big on paper as originally envisioned. It's still North Carolina. It's still the unofficially official welcome to the ACC.
Despite their storied histories, the Heels and Orange have played only seven times and three of those were by chance in the NCAA tournament. (Carolina holds a 4-3 lead overall, but the Orange won the last meeting on Nov. 20, 2009, in Madison Square Garden.)
Syracuse has welcomed Carolina to the Carrier Dome nine times overall, but eight of those were as a NCAA tournament host site. Only once have the Tar Heels visited and actually played the Orange. Ironically, Jordan played in that game on Dec. 12, 1983, although the hype that preceded the game was billed more as a battle between New York City point guards Kenny Smith of UNC and Dwayne "Pearl" Washington of Syracuse.
It'd be a stretch to bill Saturday's meeting as a battle of Syracuse freshman point guard Tyler Ennis and Carolina sophomore guard Marcus Paige, although both will prominently figure into the outcome. But the interest around town in Syracuse isn't seeing an individual player for the Heels.
Syracuse already has crossed the 30,000 ticket threshold for the game. The only tickets still available are in those upper-deck sections that stretch well beyond having a real sight line to the court. They're the kinds of tickets attendees just purchase so they can brag they were there when Carolina came to town.