Syracuse will greet Duke on the Carrier Dome basketball court tonight, and at 31,000 fans will be screaming about it.
And so talk in Central New York this week has often included the R word.
Is Duke now Syracuse’s rival?
Has this Atlantic Coast Conference matchup reached the level of a rivalry?
You know, the big fan really need somebody to despise on a daily basis.
My two favorite teams are Maryland and whoever’s playing _______
I began to fill in that blank five decades ago when I became a Terrapin.
Back then there were two basketball coaches in the ACC named Bill Foster!
One Bill Foster led Duke.
Another Bill Foster led Clemson.
As a student I really began to begin lathering up when Maryland played North Carolina in basketball, coached by Dean Smith and parading som many stars past my eyes at Cole Field House, including Michael Jordan.
Then Duke hired Mike Krzyzewski as coach.
Duke got great. Maryland got pretty great, too, particularly under the guidance of coach Gary Williams. We had classic games. Duke filled in my blank as Maryland’s rival.
Still … it takes two to tango. And make a rivalry. ACC fans would argue that Duke’s rival would always be North Carolina, the university that resided just a dozen or so miles down the road there on Tobacco Road.
Oh, so complicated, this. No matter to me. I still frothed up the most when my Terps played Duke.
Then Maryland left the ACC for the Big Ten. Now I am left still trying to fill my blank with a Michigan State or Michigan.
You think I digress from my Syracuse story, but, no.
Duke, you see, was left with a hole in its rivalry ladder when Maryland skedaddled to another league.
Blue Devils fans surely appreciated whacking the Terrapins more than, say, Georgia Tech and Florida State and Clemson on the court.
Into the ACC waltzed Syracuse from the Big East, one year before that Maryland exit.
Syracuse fans needed to replace Georgetown at the top of their chart.
Coach Jim Boeheim and Coach K were friends from their ties as coaches for the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball teams. But from the first battle as ACC foes, this was heated. Both squads had national clout. Loud fans. National followings.
Duke had a hole after Maryland left.
I say Syracuse and Duke indeed is a rivalry. Maybe not THE rivalry for Duke, but a rivalry better than most in their league.
May a coach’s jacket be flung in passion.