I know that sounds absurd but it's true.
There was a time the idea of not playing the Colgate Raiders, tonight's opponent,. would have been considered heresy. There would have been campus desecrations. Hell, because we played them, there WERE campus desecrations. There was a Syracuse student in 1914 who probably said to him or herself, "There will never be a day when Syracuse vs. Colgate isn't the most anticipated game of the year."
That student is wrong and will wear the Dunce Cap of Eternity because of it. But here's the rub...so will you. So will Dana O'Neil and everyone else whose delicate balance appears to be determined by whether or not Syracuse continues its long-standing rivalries with Villanova and Georgetown and St. John's and UConn.
Those games are the "correct" version of college basketball and it's a version that no longer exists but we will keep going for as long as we can.
It'll take about 20 years or so, but eventually we'll stop. We might still schedule these guys and there might still be hype behind the games but, just like Colgate and St. Bonaventure and Cornell and Providence and Penn State and Niagara, the power of those rivalries will fade and be replaced by new ones. An entire generation of Syracuse fans will be raised on knowing nothing but the ACC and yearly contests against the Duke Blue Devils, North Carolina Tar Heels and Boston College Eagles.
Their memories will not include legendary slugfests against John Thompson's Hoyas but legendary showdowns against Coach K's Blue Devils. They'll have no visceral connection to Patrick Ewing or Jim Calhoun. They will have visceral connections to future ACC legends who give SU fits.
I say all this not because I'm bitter we lost to Nova and St. John's. Far from it. I say it because it's an undeniable and hard-to-accept truth. Time moves on. Everything changes. The world you grew up in no longer exists. The landscape you know as college basketball is already gone. We're still clinging to what's familiar because that makes us feel good but soon enough, there will be more of "them" than there are of "us." Jim Boeheim will retire (When? Someone ask...). Conferences will shift again. College basketball will alter itself to fit new trends.
And one day, Syracuse fans will feel the same way about playing Villanova that we feel about playing Colgate today.
I know, it just doesn't sound possible. It didn't sound possible to Syracuse fans in 1914 either.