Leading up to Syracuse and Duke's first matchup on February 1, there was a desperate need (from everyone) to make this a capital-'R' Rivalry. College Gameday was there, we had a boatload of t-shirts... everything was setting the stage for SU-Duke to matter, but we just needed the results to back it up.
They have, obviously.
In just 21 days, Duke went from that "other ACC private school that perennially does well in basketball" to a team that I'd assume most Orange fans now despise. No, it was never all that hard to dislike Duke before we joined the ACC. But now? After these two games? We hate them. I mean, this is a real Rivalry (again, Capital-'R').
It's unlikely you're forgetting Syracuse 91, Duke 89 any time soon. And while you might toss last night's 66-60 score into the back of your mind, I'm sure Jimmy B's amazing (and justified) freakout will be etched in the front of your brain for some time. From Rakeem Christmas's clean block, to last night's ridiculous charge call, Orange v. Blue Devils matchups have become the season's most compelling theater... in just TWO GAMES. The matchup at the Carrier Dome is regularly referred to as the "Game of the Year" by basketball pundits and fans alike. After last night, those same fans and pundits are calling for these two teams to play every single week.
There's no use fighting it any longer. This is what we wanted and hoped for once we joined the ACC. And I'm going to rock the boat a bit here:
Syracuse vs. Duke may one day eclipse Syracuse vs. Georgetown
No, not in venom and vitriol. And no, not in the minds of anyone who was a fan of the old Big East, or really, anyone who's attended either SU or Georgetown in the past 35 or so years. But this "thing" we have with Duke? That's real. On a NATIONAL SCALE, it's real. Yes, people tuned into Orange-Hoya matchups plenty, but Duke is different. They're a national storyline, year-in and year-out. When they're great, it's news. When they're slightly-less-than-great, it's still news. We're quickly becoming a part of that story now, too. This is the ascension, folks. This is how Syracuse completes its rise to become a national powerhouse, perennial Final Four contender and member of the college basketball blue bloods society. We've wanted it for awhile, and at times, we've struggled to deal with the criticism/attention that comes with the rise. Well, we're here now. Knocking on the door. And we're doing so with help (yes, help) from Duke...
Like all proper Syracuse fans, I will always have a healthy hatred of all things related to Georgetown (just as they do for SU), but the seeds of Rivalry with Duke have been sown. Last night, watching the game at the official alumni spot in West Hollywood, the crowd shifted back toward a man who'd gotten up on a chair shortly after Jim's ejection. He removed his hoodie, and it was a Duke jersey. He goaded the crowd, begged for boos, and honestly, in a mass of angry Orange fans who'd been drinking for four hours, also took a gamble with his safety (not a threat, just a simple fact). And when I looked up at him, I HATED him and the name on the front of his jersey. Hated in a way that I have only felt with one other fan base in college basketball (take a guess which one), and was honestly doubtful I'd ever experience again. It's a scary proposition, but one which I'm now fully on-board with. Duke, I hate you. And I also couldn't be happier to be part of this Rivalry.