Syracuse vs. Marquette: Golden Eagles, Welcome Back. Weeeeee Missed You.

When you think of the Syracuse Orange and their Big East rivalries, for as long as we continue to have them, you think of Georgetown and Villanova and UConn. Maybe you think of St. John's and Providence as well given our pasts. And you might think of Louisville in the way that series has gone since they joined the conference.

Up until last year you probably didn't think of the Marquette Golden Eagles. And they seemed to notice. So they took it upon themselves to give us no other option than to despise them.

After last season...despise them we shall.

In the first meeting, it was National Marquette Day and we weren't in the mood to celebrate. The Orange were in the midst of a losing streak that seemed to be derailing the season. SU needed a win to right the ship and get back on track. Instead, Jimmy Butler hit some killer three's and Marquette sent us into our first four-game losing streak in five years.

Then came the NCAA Tournament. You know that scene in 'The Matrix' where Cypher turns on the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar? While the rest of them are still plugged in, he goes around and starts pulling out their plugs one by one, effectively killing them. He gets to Switch, who, realizing the end is upon her, looks up at Trinity and angrily says, "Not like this..." And then she's dead.

That's what the loss to Marquette in the Round of 32 felt like. We knew we'd die eventually, we just didn't think it would be this way.

And so, thanks to hosting us on your "national holiday," crushing our dreams in the NCAA Tournament and then squandering that opportunity by getting mashed by North Carolina, we officially hate you, Marquette. Happy?

Orange fans will be out in full force to welcome the Golden Eagles into town. Over 23,500 tickets have already been sold and we're sure almost sure to break the 25,081 we got for Seton Hall.

Syracuse had some struggles against Providence dealing with the absence of Baye Moussa Keita and they might have to do so again.

"Rak is not ready to play in the middle there," Boeheim said. "Baye is a very important player and we did not have him tonight. That's the first time we got in foul trouble all year almost in there, and we need him in there. Hopefully he'll get better and he'll play Saturday, but I don't know."

"You see that he's a big factor to the team because he always comes up with hustle plays, big rebounds, putbacks or anything," Fair said of Keita.

When you play basketball as a committee like the Orange do, removing one cog from the machine throws everything off kilter. But SU is going to have to figure out how to deal with that as they move into the Big East and get closer to tourney time.

The Golden Eagles rejoin us at 12-3 (1-1). Their most impressive victory is a 61-54 road win at Wisconsin, though since the game was played in-state, that doesn't count. Least that's how we understand it. They beat Villanova but that doesn't seem all that impressive anymore. They're also coming off a ridiculous loss to Georgetown, a game they once led by 222,301. It was a loss so crushing, my counterpart over there nearly quit the business.

Darius Johnson-Odom, whom I'm sure you remember, leads the charge with 17.9 PPG while Jae Crowder is right behind him at 16.6 PPG. Both of them are very three-pointer prone so, you know, let's keep an eye on them. Throw in Todd Mayo and all three of Marquette's top scorers are capable of shooting three's. Gulp.

The Dome will be packed. The team will be primed for payback. Marquette will have some swagger. It's all set up to be a fantastic day in Syracuse, assuming we can rewrite the end of the story. I mean, that's what No. 1 teams are supposed to do, right?

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