New Rivals: G'town-Syracuse
Another Thompson has helped renew Big East clash
Posted: Tuesday November 20, 2007 11:43AM; Updated: Tuesday November 20, 2007 3:35PM
PROTAGONISTS: Jim Boeheim, John Thompson III, John Thompson Jr., Donte Greene
HOW WE GOT HERE: Patrick Ewing Jr., 23, is a tad old for a collegian, and yet the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry predates both his birth and his famous father's arrival at GU in 1981. In '80, John Thompson Jr.'s Hoyas ended third-ranked Syracuse's 57-game home winning streak, and he rubbed salt in the wound when he proclaimed "Manley Field House" -- the home the Orange were vacating after 18 years -- "is officially closed." The war was on.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim characterizes what ensued as a "harsh, tough rivalry with bad feelings on both sides." It was also a clash of titans who collectively made five national-title game appearances in the '80s and '90s. Current Georgetown coach John Thompson III still recalls listening to the radio broadcast of the famed Manley victory in his family's dining room. Twenty-six years later, after beating Syracuse himself for the first time -- a little more than a month after his team upset No. 1-ranked and previously undefeated Duke -- Thompson would say, "The Duke [win] was nice; this one is nicer."
Following Papa Thompson's retirement in 1999, the Hoyas faded under Craig Esherick, and Boeheim, the 31-year constant in this ordeal, won his first national title in 2003. The Orange then endured a slump of their own: They missed out the '07 NCAA tournament, but reloaded with a stellar recruiting class whose headliner is Donte Greene, a five-star forward from Baltimore who says he at one point favored Georgetown.
The Hoyas, who began the season ranked 5th by SI, will survive. Their ills were cured with the 2004 arrival of Thompson III, who led them to the Final Four in just three years. He's too subdued to play the same role in the rivalry as his father did. Hoya Paranoia has given way to placidity and the Princeton offense -- but any cast that still includes a Thompson, a Boeheim, and the best of the Big East is more than enough with which to stage a revival. It's on ... again.
TALKING THE TALK: "The Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry is something that is synonymous with the Big East. The specialness of that game was ingrained in me growing up." -- John Thompson III
WHEN THEY MEET: Jan. 21 in D.C., Feb. 16 in Syracuse
HEAT LEVEL: Reheated