For the entire month of December, Syracuse University owned New York City. A culmination of DOCTOR Gross' New York's College Team campaign, Syracuse blanketed the city in a sea of orange, including:
- Massive billboards in Times Square
- The Empire State Building lit up orange (twice, even if one time had nothing to do with us).
- Syracuse dominated Michigan State in Madison Square Garden in front of a partisan crowd.
- Syracuse players and coaches rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange
- Syracuse benefited from The Big Yankee Machine in publicizing the Pinstripe Bowl
- Syracuse won the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium in front of a massive crowd of SU fans
By all accounts if you were visiting NYC from a foreign country during late December, no one would have blame you for thinking Syracuse University was actually located in Manhattan. It was DOC Gross' dream come true (he's still working on that Manhattan move...).
The flip side, however, is that DOC's dream is St. John's nightmare.
What does St. John's have if they don't have New York City? NYC is a notoriously fickle college football town (just look at the local numbers from the BCS title game compared to the rest of the nation). But basketball...New York City responds to basketball.
During the 80's, that was St. John's bread and butter. Lou Carnesecca. Chris Mullin. Mark Jackson. Even in into the 90's, the Redmen were a force to be occasionally-reckoned with. The Johnnies were still pulling in talent like Malik Sealy, Ron Artest, Shawnelle Scott, Felipe Lopez and Lavor Postell.
Then, with the 00's, the bottom dropped out on the now-Red Storm. After winning the BET in 2000, the team only returned to the NCAA Tournament once ('02) and there's been a LOT of lean years since then. It's gotten to the point where the 7th-winningest program in NCAA history was beginning to feel like dead weight.
Also in the interim, Syracuse took over ownership of Madison Square Garden. Cuse fans take offense at MSG games being considered home games but the truth is it's usually mock offense. We LOVE the fact that we can pack the Garden any time we play there. Even when we're playing St. John's...which is IN New York City.
And that's a bit of a sore spot for Storm fans. Now that the Steve Lavin Era is off to a promising start and the program is en route to its first NCAA berth in almost a decade, they want their spot amongst the Big East big boys back. They want their legitimacy back. And they want their home floor back.
Syracuse has taken over Madison Square Garden in earlier visits to play St. John’s. Their Orange-clad fans cheer like it’s a home game, the Red Storm faithful are drowned out – an embarrassing scene for coaches, players, fans, and potential recruits.
But the Red Storm are no longer pushovers. With a new coach, new dedication, and some new confidence, this game won’t be lack the last 2 contests against the Orange. The Orange have turned the last 2 games into laughers, whooping and hollering on the bench as they play got ragged, and garbage time extended into double-digit minutes.
There's a reason SB Nation's new St. John's blog references the Garden in its name. It's their home (well, one of them). And we besmirch it every single time we play there.
We are the besmirchers and we have besmirched unchecked for so long, we don't remember what it was like before we were besmirching that place.
So what does this game mean to both programs?
For Syracuse, a win's a win. We won't get too much credit because, like I said, MSG is considered Carrier Dome South to most basketball pundits. However this isn't your Dad's St. John's. Actually, this is kinda like your Dad's St. John's. I guess it's actually not your Slighty-Older Sibling's St. John's. A win here will do good things for our SOS and RPI. And it's a Big East road win...I don't care who you are, you take those and you run.
For St. John's, this could be the biggest program win in years. They'd be handing the No. 4 team in the nation their first loss. It could be a reaffirming statement that the Storm's early Big East success is no fluke. Most of all, it would be a declaration of re-independence. The Johnnies would be staking their claim to MSG and letting Cuse Nation know that when we walk into that building, we are the visiting team, regardless of how much orange is in the crowd.
Obviously, we can't let this happen. We're in a dangerous spot. We looked iffy as hell against Seton Hall and you could make the case we're ripe for a loss. You better believe the Red Storm wants to be the one to do it. Scoop and the Gang are gonna need to get their act together in a hurry cause playing St. John's in Madison Square Garden suddenly feels a lot different than it did 12 months ago.