Big East built their matchup
Picking the best rivalry is like picking the best diamond They're all pretty nice.
They're also all personal and to an extent, parochial.
So I guess, then, it's not surprising that a New Jersey girl who grew up in the footprint of the Big East is most upset to see the Syracuse-Georgetown slugfest come to an end when the Orange jump to the ACC and the Hoyas move on with their Catholic 7 brethren.
The Big East's fabric is built around its history, and the history digs deepest between these two schools. For the better part of the league's history, Georgetown and Syracuse have been at the forefront -- often loaded with the best players and the best teams. The individual matchups were great -- Ewing vs. the Pearl, Alonzo Mourning vs. Derrick Coleman -- and the coaching head-to-head between John Thompson and Jim Boeheim even better.
What's best about this rivalry? It started at the beginning.
When the Big East was in its infancy and trying to create an identity, Georgetown and Syracuse gave it to them. In 1980, the No. 2 Orange hosted the Hoyas at Manley Field House. It was the last game to be played at the old gym and Syracuse was virtually unbeatable there -- the Orange had won 57 in a row.
Naturally Georgetown pulled off the upset, but even worse when it was over, Thompson intoned, "Manley Field House is officially closed."
And they were off.
The game had everything from bad blood (Michael Graham threw a punch at Andre Hawkins) to chaos (in 1990, Thompson was hit with three technicals in the span of 10 seconds and ejected from the game, resulting in a 10-point possession for Syracuse).
Perhaps the two teams someday can come to an agreement and play again, but it won't be the same. This game mattered because of the Big East stakes.
Sadly, chant finally rings true
In recent years, the Cameron Crazies always liked to chant "Not our rivals!" when Maryland came to town. Sadly, after Duke plays at Maryland on Saturday, the jeer will finally come true.
The Terrapins' move to the Big Ten will end what had become one of the most raucous matchups in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Duke-North Carolina gets more attention nationally, and any combination of Duke-UNC-NC State gets more notice on Tobacco Road.
But Duke-Maryland -- especially in the early 2000s when Mike Krzyzewski's scowl battled Gary Williams' sweat -- made for some of the conference's most memorable moments.
Remember the 2001 season, when the Blue Devils and Terps played four times? The series that year began with the "Miracle Minute," when Jason Williams led a 10-point comeback in the final 60 seconds to force overtime -- and a Duke win. Stunned Maryland fans had begun to chant "Over-rated!" before the rally, and the Terps would go on to lose to the Devils two more times that season, including in the national semifinals.
Or how about 2002, when Maryland followed Duke's national title with one of its own -- beating the Devils by 14 points at home in the process? Or 2004, when the Terps ended Duke's five-year reign of winning the ACC tournament with a 95-87 overtime victory?
During those years, ESPN dubbed Duke-UNC the best "traditional" rivalry in college basketball, but ranked the Devils-Terps as the top "current" rivalry at the time. The series may have cooled in recent years, but the showdowns never have. Who can forget Duke center Brian Zoubek's breakout 17-rebound home game in 2010? Or Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez's dagger of a basket in the final minute later that season, which secured the Terps' revenge?
Throughout it all, Maryland may have loathed Duke more than the Devils hated the Terps. But with all those heated, heightened moments, the "Not Our Rival" insistence never quite rang true.
Until, unfortunately, now.