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Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Georgetown-Cuse: Farewell at the Dome?


Syracuse's pending departure to the ACC hasn't led to the same sort of bitterness we've seen in the past among conference brethren, most notably with the school's key rival over the past 25 years, the Georgetown Hoyas. This is not Kansas-Missouri. No one is overly cranky. The ACC offered more stable ground for the Orange, and for the most part, that was that.

So does that mean they'll continue the series?

Well, no one is ready to commit. Not in the least.

When the ACC move happened this fall, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim discussed the possibility of continuing the St. John's series more so than the Georgetown one. Boeheim didn't respond for comment this week.

John Thompson III
John Thompson III has certainly seen his share of Georgetown-Syracuse games.

"Everything changes,'' Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "Right now this falls into the category of what you would consider out-of-conference scheduling. It's there with the SEC-Big East Challenge. It is year to year. We'll see. There are a lot of hurdles and factors as to whether we play the game or not.''

Second-ranked Syracuse hosts No. 11 Georgetown on Wednesday night and it could be the last time the two programs play at the Carrier Dome. The Orange are scheduled to play in the Big East for two more seasons, as the league wants to hold them to a 27-month exit plan.

No one with rational thought believes West Virginia -- off to the Big 12 next season if you listen to that league and the Mountaineers -- or even Pitt and Syracuse would play two more seasons as a lame duck. The Panthers and Orange will likely hang out for one more season after this, though.

The two teams might play just once next season, and since Syracuse doesn't play Georgetown in Washington this season, that meeting (potentially their final one) might be at the Verizon Center.

"This game means a lot for different reasons,'' Syracuse senior forward Kris Joseph said. "When I used to watch basketball, it was as big as the Carolina-Duke rivalry. For me it's big because my two final schools [to choose between] were Georgetown and Syracuse. It's the tradition. It's big whether it's at Georgetown or at home. It's exciting for the fans and the teams.''

Joseph won't have a say, obviously, but he said he wants to see this rivalry continue after Syracuse's move.

"I think it should since it's something a lot of people look forward to every year,'' Joseph said. "Just because they change conferences, it shouldn't matter. This has been done for so long every year that it should continue, whether it's at the Garden or at a neutral site. They should meet up again.''

When Boston College left for the ACC, the Eagles were shunned by the remaining Big East schools except for St. John's and Providence. Pitt was supposed to play BC in the Jimmy V Classic, but the Panthers and the Big East frowned upon it, and the Eagles were subbed out for Indiana in the tournament.

Soon, Pitt and Syracuse will be with BC in the ACC. But the Eagles didn't have the same rich history with either school that Georgetown shares. And that's because the Hoyas and Orange predate UConn's run in the league, when those two schools were the two most successful programs in the Big East.

The personalities of John Thompson Jr. coaching Hoya paranoia and Boeheim coaching comparable pros at Syracuse made for elite matchups for years and years.

"There is so much history between the two and a lot of important games, lot of tough games, lot of close games, played for high stakes,'' Thompson III said.

And this year is no different.

The Orange are the dominant team in the Big East and a Final Four favorite. Georgetown is one of the surprise teams in the league, along with Notre Dame. And that's where the Hoyas are situated heading into Wednesday night. Georgetown is tied with Marquette and Notre Dame in the loss column (three), two games behind Syracuse.

Syracuse big man Fab Melo is back after missing three games while dealing with an academic issue from the first semester. Melo played (14 points, two blocks and three boards) in a rout at St. John's on Saturday.

"I didn't even know he was out,'' Thompson III said.

Thompson III said the Hoyas played "our worst game of the year" at Pitt on Jan. 28. But since then, they've beaten up on Connecticut and South Florida at home, getting continued balance from Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson, freshman Otto Porter and Henry Sims. The Hoyas' defense didn't allow either team to reach 50 points.

Thompson III said the Hoyas can't afford to turn the ball over because the Orange are better than any team in the country at converting those turnovers into points.

Joseph said the Hoyas' ability to spread the Orange on offense can leave them vulnerable. Watching for the back-door cuts will be a must.

Having Melo back gives the Cuse a safety net, though, and Joseph said it makes everything easier on the defensive end. Bench players Dion Waiters, C.J. Fair and Michael Carter-Williams give the Orange just as much offensive punch as their starting lineup.

"This has been fun,'' Joseph said. "Every game we've got the target on our back. This is a great time for us. We've overcome a lot on and off the court this year.''