We've all been a little numbed at the entire process, like fans of Community, a show seemingly on its last legs for the better part of two years. They've known the end is coming with such advanced notice that when the beginning of the end started last week, it was almost an afterthought.
Actually, even more like Community, the Big East has left fans wondering if they've been watching the Darkest Timeline over the last couple of years. Syracuse and Pittsburgh announce they're out, Rutgers and Louisville follow suit, and then the Catholic Seven too say, "Peace be with you, and peace out."
A prolonged strange, sad, and ultimately not very funny story. But the thing is, that story for Syracuse is really almost over. It seems like ten years ago SU announced it was ACC-bound. And, just the same, it feels like it will be years before it actually gets to the ACC. But, the truth is, there are only 8 regular season basketball games left for Syracuse University.
The countdown to the end continues Wednesday night, SU v. UConn one more time. The last conference battle between the two. Crazy, right? At one time a doormat, the Huskies became one of the Beasts of the East, along with SU and Georgetown. And, over the last two decades, it's really been Connecticut that's served as Syracuse's biggest rival.
Think about some of the biggest and best Big East games from the last ten, maybe even fifteen years. In 1999, Syracuse upsets Connecticut, but before the game could end Jim Calhoun pulls his team to avoid the waiting students lining the court -- ready to storm it and anything in their path. Who could forget 2006 and Gerry McNamara's game-tying three in the Big East quarterfinals against No. 1 Connecticut? The best part? Huskies coach Jim Calhoun screaming at his players for not fouling McNamara before he got the shot off -- knowing it was cash the second G-Mac pulled the trigger.
Oh hell, here's what we all want to see:
And while Louisville and Notre Dame put on their best impression, there will only be one six overtime madness of a basketball game, ever.
That's what Syracuse v. Connecticut left fans and general basketball on-lookers with nearly every time the two battled. Maybe the games didn't go into six overtimes, but they always left everyone with memories. Like the Big East tournament in 2005 -- an SU team most considered just happy to be there jumped all over heavy favorite Connecticut, silencing UConn fans in a sold out Madison Square Garden. The Orange hung on to win, and followed it up the next night by claiming its first Big East tourney title in 13 years.
And the thing is, you're probably reading this and thinking of other games that I haven't mentioned. Like one of the most emotional Senior Days at the Dome ever (excluding the over-the-top GMac special Senior Day); Jeremy McNeil's last home game comes with a double-digit win over the eventual NCAA champion Huskies. Or possibly you're thinking of any number of huge Syracuse - Connecticut battles. I'm sure Huskies fans remember beating the 'Cuse in a few Garden games, or walking out of the Dome victors -- including a big win during McNamara's senior year. Really, there's too many great games to throw into just one column.
But there is only one more game scheduled -- Wednesday night in Hartford. After that? Maybe a match up in the Big East tourney for old times' sake? (Sorry guys.) (which of course isn't possible...) It doesn't seem possible, but this long, ugly divorce from the Big East is nearly final. And while I support it (think of the kids!), that doesn't mean it's not without sadness. We've all been preparing for the final Georgetown Dome game, or the last game ever in the conference, fittingly enough against the Hoyas. Those hated Hoyas with all their history against Syracuse. But most of that tradition is buried in the past. John Thompson III isn't nearly the menacing Bad Guy that his father was. And Alonzo Mourning and Charles Smith and Allen Iverson aren't walking through that door.
(BTW - way to screw over SU on the way out the door Big East. Giving the Orange a road game at Georgetown at noon? Classy.)
Connecticut has been the real thorn in Syracuse's side. Until Wednesday, that is. Like it or not.
But then again, Calhoun isn't coming in the door either. Ray Allen, Khalid Al Amin, and Donyell Marshall aren't suiting up for the Huskies. This UConn team, and the entire program, is going through major changes. A little like what happened after Thompson Jr. walked way from Georgetown, UConn could be in for a major drop-off -- especially if its stuck in the collapsing Big East for good (although I do think Kevin Ollie is the man to keep UConn afloat during this turbulent time).
So maybe it's the right time to say goodbye to Hartford, to Connecticut, to the Huskies, and to one of the best college basketball rivalries in the country. Maybe with everything going on in college sports SU - UConn has run its course. I don't know. The only thing we do know is that, ready or not, Wednesday night will be an end to a memorable era.
Time for Syracuse in the Big East is running out. No seriously, it is.