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Georgetown-Syracuse: Return of the Rivalry

No, it's not the same. Yes, it's a good thing.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

If you're perusing this website, you already know that Georgetown and Syracuse had one of the fiercest and most storied rivalries in college basketball history.  It was beautiful and it was hatred.  It began when John Thompson Jr. closed Manley Field House in 1980, and seemingly ended in 2013, when Syracuse knocked Georgetown out of the Big East Semifinals (still makes me cringe) on its way to the ACC.

Now, Georgetown-Syracuse is back. The two schools have reached an agreement to play a four-year home-and-home series starting in Washington D.C. for the 2015-16 season.  Reactions have been favorable but surprisingly lukewarm among Hoya fans.  Comments I've seen have ranged from "gung-ho" to "hell no", with the most common concern being how intense the revamped rivalry will be.

Let's be honest: this isn't going to be what it used to be. Georgetown-Syracuse has no shared geography and not enough student and alumni overlap to sustain the rivalry on its own.  This rivalry was uniquely dependent on its conference to create and sustain it.  Georgetown was just a random opponent that night in the final game in Manley.  Thompson's brilliant moment of arrogance sparked the rivalry, but it needed the oxygen of repeated games at high stakes to burn.  Always competing for the Big East title made sure those stakes were always there to build on Thompson's original spark.

If the rivalry dimmed in the late 90's/early 2000's - I don't think it did but many do -  it's because Georgetown stunk and thus the stakes of the game weren't quite as much.  Once Georgetown returned to prominence, it was time to tell Manley stories again.

It won't be the same. A non-conference game is never going to have the stakes that a conference game has - unless you're battling for state bragging rights.  They are early in the season and have little chance of being reprised in the conference tournament.  After a two year break, there won't be enough going on to motivate Jim Boeheim to kick over a chair or John Thompson to pick up three technical fouls.

And yet, these two schools renewing their rivalry is still a great thing.  Look at it like this: John Thompson III is clearly making an effort to put together difficult schedules.  Thus, Syracuse fits in.  They're almost a lock to be really good every year.

If the choice is between Syracuse or some random power - UCLA, Michigan St., North Carolina, even Duke -  then Syracuse makes more sense.  The rivalry might not be the same, but it's still there; even if the buzz isn't what it was before.  It will be a guaranteed national television appearance that will fill the Verizon Center, which was a huge problem for Georgetown last year. Most importantly, it is going to arise more passion out of fans than anybody else Georgetown can play.

Syracuse is the best possible non-conference opponent Georgetown could schedule. A return of the rivalry will maximize the interest in Hoya basketball, both within and outside of the Georgetown community. John Thompson III should be commended for scheduling them.