Ever since joining the ACC, the frequency of intense rivalry games has dramatically decreased for the Syracuse Orange. That’s largely in part due to the fact that Syracuse really doesn’t have many “rivals” in the ACC. There are no more old-school, Big East-style games since the conference split apart in 2013, and many SU games do not recreate the same feeling in the Carrier Dome for fans anymore.
To be fair to Syracuse and the ACC, the pair are also only entering their eighth year together, so there’s still a lot of history to be made. But many fans still crave the intensity of the Orange matching up against a hated foe. So who should Syracuse look to mark as a rival? Let’s throw out a few names here.
Keep in mind, we want to keep this realistic, so I won’t throw out some names that would be good to see due to conference realignment. I’ll keep things strictly ACC -- rivalries that Syracuse should be working harder to promote and gain more attention. With that being said:
Now I know many people still reject the idea of Duke being a rival to Syracuse. But I think it’s time to accept that the Blue Devils are and will continue to be for some time SU’s biggest draw as an opponent no matter where the game takes place. There’s enough history to support an official rivalry between the two teams, too: multiple sellout crowds, national attention, close games, and upsets. You may recall a certain jacket toss as well.
Even in recent times when Syracuse hasn’t been nationally ranked, the games between the two teams are always competitive and usually close. The younger and newer fans to Syracuse gravitate more towards Duke as a rival, and it’s time that everyone else joins that bandwagon — despite Duke’s obvious existing rivalry with North Carolina.
It’s been a while since Syracuse really went to war against the Panthers, but the games between these two teams used to feel especially heated and important, especially with Jamie Dixon at the helm. However, ever since Dixon left, Pitt’s performance has tanked tremendously. As a result, the games between the Orange and the Panthers have largely been boring with not much behind it. SU’s won of eight of nine since Dixon’s departure, and are currently riding a seven-game win streak in the series.
That being said, there’s still a lot of history between these two teams and a lot of animosity between the alumni of these programs. And with Jeff Capel in charge, he seems like the right man to lead Pitt’s (eventual) resurgence to the top-25 rankings. With that, games should become more competitive and the hatred these two programs once had for each other should resurface.
We’ve certainly pushed this narrative multiple times on this website, and you can thank a certain Elite 8 comeback for at least part of that momentum. Recent games between these two teams have been hotly contested, even if the main reason for that has been that neither team could hit the broad side of a barn with a basketball — save the second half of last year’s matchup when UVA couldn’t miss from three (/shudders).
Much like Duke, Syracuse has pulled off some upsets against Virginia despite the talent disadvantages over recent seasons. That has certainly drummed up more interest in this matchup. Wins against the Cavaliers feel that much more important, and Syracuse fans are certainly starting to realize that more.
This is probably a little out of left field, but hear me out for just a second. First of all, there’s been a couple of questionable losses to the Yellow Jackets over the past few seasons. Most Orange fans wouldn’t think of Georgia Tech at the same level of Syracuse in any season, but somehow the Yellow Jackets pull out a surprise here and there.
Secondly, the student section hates Syracuse. I don’t know how they feel about any of the other teams in the ACC (because seriously, who’s going to willingly watch Georgia Tech), but they’re always loud and do anything they can to try to get into the heads of Syracuse players. Give it some time. It’d be hard, but some playful social media banter or a clever promotion could turn this usually “boring” matchup into a must-watch within a couple of years.
Which teams in the ACC would make good rivals for Syracuse? Leave your suggestions and feedback in the comments below.