Of the opponents that the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team has faced on 20 or more occasions all-time, they have losing records against just two of them. SU’s 9-12 vs. NYU but hasn’t faced them since 1964 (and likely won’t ever again). The other program to qualify there is the Louisville Cardinals.
Syracuse is 9-18 against the Cardinals — 3-6 prior to the Cards joining the Big East, 4-9 when both were members of the Big East, and 2-3 in the ACC.
That recent “uptick” sounds nice, but it still underlines the issue against the Cardinals under every coach, but especially Rick Pitino. The former Jim Boeheim assistant was 12-5 against SU, and over the course of two different conferences, seemed to cause unceasing frustration for even the best Orange squads.
Syracuse lost seven straight to U of L at one point, from 2007 to 2011. As a student from 2006-10, I never saw the Orange beat the Cardinals while I was there, and had to watch the Cards knock off a No. 1-ranked SU team AND beat us in the 2009 Big East Tournament final. Whether you were also a student then or not, you suffered the same torment.
Though SU started to turn the page past the Pitino-era struggles last year with a win over David Padgett, it was never a permanent solution, so the single season is far from an “era.” On the other hand, new coach Chris Mack already seems well on his way to establishing his own “era” at Louisville. His top-20 Cards team owns a bunch of signature wins already this season and could wind up a top-four seed come March.
Despite the strong start to the year (18-8, 9-4 in the ACC), Louisville does have some potential concerns. Since up an upset win at Virginia Tech, they’ve lost to FSU, choked away a 23-point lead to Duke and squeaked by Clemson.
With Syracuse In need of another big win on top of their Duke upset, Louisville could be exactly what they’re looking for — both to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume, and start off this new era against U of L basketball on the right foot.
Though oddly, Jim Boeheim won his first matchup against each of the last three Louisville coaches he’s faced: Padgett, Pitino and Denny Crum. The first win over Pitino came right before the aforementioned seven straight losses. Boeheim was actually 3-2 against Crum, while the Orange(men) were 3-4 against the Hall of Famer.
So will one win provide a hard reset for Syracuse in this series? Most certainly not. And really, it may not even be a harbinger of what’s to come afterward vs. Louisville. Still, given how poorly this series has gone over the life of it, just a single victory (especially one that carries some extra weight toward this year’s fortunes) could be some nice relief from years of frustration.