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Rivalry Week: Ways to revitalize Syracuse vs. Georgetown

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(other than fulfilling the misguided dreams of many of you by just going back to the Big East)

Syracuse v Georgetown Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Welcome to rivalry week(s)! Through July 10, SB Nation sites will be talking about rivalries in their various forms. And since the Syracuse Orange have a complicated past, present and future with rivals, this is obviously right in our wheelhouse.

Appropriately, we begin this two-week event by discussing the Georgetown Hoyas, our former Big East cohort and now jilted ex-lover.

Rather than rehash the “does this rivalry still matter?” question we’ve gone through almost annually since Syracuse’s departure from the Big East, we’re putting a different spin on things this time around:

How do we revitalize this rivalry?

Any and all ideas are up for debate here. The only one we’re not entertaining is Syracuse returning to the Big East, since we all know that’s not happening, so no reason to even entertain it. Additionally, adding Georgetown as a non-football member to the ACC is also off the table. Sorry.

1. Georgetown needs to improve

This one seems counter to what we want on an annual basis, but the Hoyas’ recent struggles do help contribute to the shrug-worthy nature of this matchup lately. While Syracuse hasn’t been worldbeaters either (we’ll get there), Georgetown has finished over .500 just once since 2015-16. A coaching change to Patrick Ewing a few years back hasn’t seemed to energize the program at all, and they’ve spent the last 12 months sort of hemorrhaging players.

We saw this sort of ebb with the Syracuse vs. Georgetown rivalry too the last time the Hoyas found themselves mired in extended mediocrity — most of 1997-2005. At the time, UConn took their place for the Orange faithful, though Georgetown still managed to return to relevance for us and the greater college basketball landscape. If they’re even a 20-win team again, this rivalry gets infinitely better immediately.

Georgetown v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

2. Oh, Syracuse has to improve too, by the way

Syracuse being an annual bubble team for six years hasn’t helped matters either. No, we haven’t sunk to the depths of Georgetown’s failures by any means, but other than some surprising deep tournament runs in 2016 and 2018, we’re not really setting the world on fire. Losing Elijah Hughes this year won’t help us get back to some sort of prominence, necessarily, either. We have hope for the 2022 recruiting class, but... that’s still a long way out.

Some rivalries can sustain themselves despite mediocrity for one or both programs — see Kansas and Missouri football when both were Big 12 members as one of numerous examples there. But especially given the fact that Syracuse and Georgetown are no longer in the same league, just being better would up the stakes a bit more.

3. Play twice per year

This gets less likely given the ACC’s 20-game schedule for men’s basketball, but there are still 11 games out there and some additional exposure in the DMV area wouldn’t hurt us. The question is whether we’re doing Georgetown more of a favor there than it would be a benefit for Syracuse. You potentially take that trade-off in the short-term for the long-term gain of the Hoyas being better, I think (see point No. 1). SU and Georgetown lost some luster when the Big East schedule couldn’t accommodate annual home-and-homes, as failing to have that chance for later payback leaves something to be desired. Adding a home-and-home with Georgetown also makes the Orange’s schedule infinitely more interesting and challenging when paired with the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, an early season tournament and maybe another neutral site game in New York.

4. Move the game to January/February

Big East faceoffs between these two teams were in the thick of the conference schedule, when students were on campus. The current setup has this game showing up during finals or when students are already gone. There’s little intensity or mutual hatred there for it. The current students weren’t even around when these two teams shared a conference.

It wouldn’t be easy to work into the ACC’s schedule, but it’s certainly possible. Reserving a January or February Saturday for Syracuse vs. Georgetown could restore it to a place of prominence in the wider basketball consciousness and make it easier for the league to get quality conference matchup inventory into the November/December timeframe via shifting a Syracuse game out earlier.

Mens’ College Basketball Coaches - Georgetown’s John Thompson and Syracruse’s Jim Boeheim

5. Reeducate about the rivalry itself

“Requiem for the Big East” was years ago at this point, and plenty has occurred since then. It also had the need to pay some sort of service to the other teams in the Big East beyond just Syracuse and Georgetown.

Incoming students at both schools should be educated about the importance of this rivalry, and feel amped up for the matchup (something that having the game while students are on campus would certainly help). A documentary in conjunction with ESPN — even if it just airs on ESPN+ — could help from a marketability standpoint and introduce the rivalry to a new generation that has a very different perception of the Big East at this point.

At its height, Syracuse vs. Georgetown didn’t just matter to the fans of the two schools. It mattered around to college basketball fans everywhere — even if maybe not on the same level as Duke vs. UNC. Despite not sharing a conference anymore, I think the matchup can still occupy a place in the national consciousness. It just needs an extra push that a random Saturday in December (typically against the Army vs. Navy football game or something similar) just won’t provide.

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