Noon, Saturday marks the end of an era in college basketball, one that stretched over thirty years, as Syracuse University laces 'em up against Georgetown for the last time in regular season BIG EAST competition. A record crowd is expected to cram D.C.'s Verizon Center, possibly setting the indoor sporting event attendance record in America's Capital City.
These two schools that helped define the BIG EAST as a basketball power - ironically leading to the recent exodus of football-focused schools to other conferences - will forever be linked as hated rivals. It's their brand.
Further increasing the importance - if that's possible - is the fact a win will give the Hoyas the league's regular season championship, a point enhanced by pending BIG EAST fracturing this year. To use De La Soul's song of the same name, 'Stakes is High'.
"I do think, that it's very fitting" said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III, regarding the conference crown his team can secure with a win. "Just when you look at the two programs have meant to each other. What the programs have meant to the BIG EAST, it is fitting that… the last time we play as conference members, you come down to, it's for something".
Thompson, in his ninth year as Head Hoya, indicated the rivalry has "mean a lot", mostly from a personal perspective, as "most of my memories, are literally as a fan, as somebody who grew up with the BIG EAST. Who grew up with this rivalry", given his father is John Thompson, Jr., former G'Town head coach.
"As a fan growing up, you grow up with the BIG EAST, you grow up with Syracuse-Georgetown" continued Thompson, essentially speaking for two generations of fans. "I remember watching Marty Headd, Louis Orr, Roosevelt Bouie and those teams go against John Duren, Craig Shelton, on through, tomorrow. And so, it's been special.
Thompson did hint at continued games against Syracuse, yet discounted them, given "It's not going to be the same, playing a random home and home with an opponent, as opposed to having a conference foe, a conference rival, a conference opponent where you are going to play twice a year, sometimes three times a year. And just the nature of the success of both programs, and again every game usually means something. That will be missed".
Present players understand what this means, but are not prone to hyperbole; the job at hand is focused upon.
"We haven't talked that much about it" shared freshman guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, of the history, or ending of it, attached to the game. An Indianapolis, IN native, he was not raised with an appreciation of the rivalry - "Growing up I wasn't too much of a college basketball (fan), I didn't watch it too much. I wasn't too much into it at all honestly", but is clued in now -"Oh yeah, I'm a part of it, so it's something that I definitely embrace and look forward to it".
"It's a big game for both teams" opined the team's offensive leader, Otto Porter of tomorrows looming epic battle. "We know what to expect coming in", added Smith-Rivera.
To find out how the Hoyas are approaching this game strategically, see our Premium Court message board. Thompson, Porter and Smith-Rivera are all there. The coach even shares about old players contacting the program about tomorrow, and coming back to see the game.
Be sure to take advantage of our real time, in-game chat, in addition to viewing the game on ESPN or listening via Rich Chvotkin's WTEM 980am call, if not attending.
"We're excited…we're starting to start a new chapter" said Thompson regarding the creation of a new conference comprised of seven Catholic, non-football focused schools that were all part of the former league (a few new schools to be added), and will begin competition next season. "The Big East has been something that's been special to me personally and too everyone whose been involved in it.
"But we're in an era of change. As much as that one segment, that one era, that one time of the Big East, will always be special…But it's time for change".
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