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On Syracuse & Cal & Accidental Rivalries & The Weirdness of College Basketball

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After tonight, Syracuse will have played Cal more times since March 2013 than any other opponent. That's weird.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange and California Golden Bears really shouldn't know one another all that well.

We're on opposite coasts. The likelihood our football programs we'll ever meet again are slim. The likelihood our basketball teams would schedule one another on their own is low. We have very few alumni or pop culture crossovers. About the only thing that comes to mind is the fact that my roommate when I first moved out to Los Angeles was a massive Cal fan that put me and my fandom to shame.

And yet, oddly, Syracuse and Cal are about to play one another for the third time in three seasons. The first meeting was a Syracuse victory in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Nine games later (technically-speaking), Syracuse beat Cal again in the 2013 Maui Invitational. Tonight, they'll play in the semifinals of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.

The longevity of this accidential rivalry has helped spawn a catchphrase that has outlasted it's initial humor and morphed into a kind-of mobius strip of meaning. It wasn't true when it was uttered (ten times) but it is actually true now. Cal simply continues to try and get back in this. It's kinda funny and then it's not and then it kinda is again (but mostly not).

We talk a lot about rivalry around here. We'd like to think we're starting to develop strong ones in the ACC. We know that some of those rivalries are a bit manufactured and probably always will be. And that's not to say that Cal is a rival by any means, but there's a weird synchronicity to the fact that every time we think they're done with us, they pop up around another corner.

From the time we played Cal in the NCAA Tournament (March 23, 2013) to today (November 19, 2014), here's how many times we will have played schools that we would consider rivals (or at least like to):

Georgetown: 0
UConn: 0
Villanova: 1
St. John's: 1
Louisville: 0
Pitt: 2
Duke: 2
UNC: 1

If you became a Syracuse fan during the magical Final Four run of 2013, the one opponent that you will know better than anyone else after tonight is Cal.

That's weird.

That doesn't prove anything.

That's college basketball for you.