Last week, No. 4 Syracuse battled No. 10 Georgetown to a thrilling and emotionally-draining 75-71 victory in front of 19,976 in Washington D.C. This was on the heels of the two team's first meeting, a 73-56 win by then-No. 4 Syracuse over then-No. 12 Georgetown in front of 26,508 rabid Carrier Dome fans. Both times, rival fans campaigned for their teams and verbally-assaulted their opponents for days and the celebration afterwards was memorable, at least for Cuse fans.
Still, I think we all have to set aside our biases from time to time to admit the irrefutable truth and this is one of those times.
Syracuse vs. Georgetown is not a rivalry. It's not even meaningful.
Seton Hall vs. Rutgers. Thy name is rivalry.
Ever since last July, when Pat Forde explained the intricate details and inner-workings of what makes a rivalry a rivalry, we've understood that our little Orange-Hoya playtime was just a mere placeholder until The Big Show. Syracuse and Georgetown had two really cute games against each other. That was so sweet the way those two teams tried to be relevant. Of course, we know that neither team matters. Neither does West Virginia. Or UConn. Or even Villanova.
No, the only two Big East teams that could possibly represent everything that is prescient and meaningful and important about the game of college basketball, the word rivalry and the mystery and meaning of life itself....are Seton Hall and Rutgers.
And that was before we knew the fate of mankind and the planet Earth would depend on the outcome of this game.
And here's the crazy part...when Forde prophesied about the importance of this immortal showdown that will make Syracuse and UConn's six-overtime epic look like N.J.I.T. vs. Montclair State, he couldn't even fathom just how high the stakes would be:
Not a lot of attention or glory in the Rumble for New Jersey, but coaches Bobby Gonzalez and Fred Hill don't like each other and staged a memorable in-game and postgame hissing match back in 2008. With one or more of them fighting for their jobs this season, it will add to the tension.
FRED HILL IS TOTALLY FIGHTING FOR HIS JOB!!! RATCHET THIS F**KER UP TO ELEVEN!!!
I could sit here and name all of the classic Seton Hall vs. Rutgers moments but who has the time? (Fred Hill might soon enough). All you need to know is, when Forde included Seton Hall vs. Rutgers on his list of the most red-hot rivalries in all the land, both teams were coming off an epic showdown in front of...8,390 people!!! Sure, it's one thing to play in front of 26,000 screaming lunatics in the Carrier Dome...but try bringing that same intensity when you're playing in front of 8,000 mildly-interested commuters!!! THAT IS THE ESSENCE OF RIVALRY.
So many storylines. Hazell vs. Rosario. Hill vs. Gonzalez. Um...Other things vs. Some other things. UNBELIEVABLE!!!
This year, the game has even more resonance if you can believe it. Seton Hall is a mighty 15-10 (6-8) while the Rutgers Fightin' Fred Hills are a frisky 14-13 (4-10). College Basketball Invitational bids are won and lost on days such as this. It just doesn't get any better.
For reasons I don't want to get into (political), the game will not be nationally-televised. If anything, it just adds to the mystique. The real question you should be asking yourself is...where were you the night two mediocre Big East teams played in each in front of 7,000 people in Newark???
I know where Pat Forde will be. He'll be expecting you...