Syracuse and former Big East rivals five years later

Syracuse and four former Big East rivals have all had varying degrees of success since the Orange joined the Atlantic Coast Conference

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Frank Howard drives during Syracuse's 55-52 win over Clemson. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Syracuse’s 69-65 loss to Duke in the NCAA Tournament marked the completion of the Orange’s fifth season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Jim Boeheim’s penchant for the Waffle House and his favorite southern city, Greensboro, aside, life in the ACC has been interesting, to say the least. But what about the Big East and the former foes Syracuse left behind? Here’s a look at how the Orange and four of its former hoops rivals – Villanova, Connecticut, Georgetown, and St. John’s – have fared since the Big East became the Big Breakup.

Syracuse

The Orange hit the ground running in its first ACC season as it started the 2013-14 campaign with a 25-game win streak and the No. 1 ranking, an out-of-conference victory versus Villanova, and two epic clashes against Duke. Syracuse lost its first ACC Tournament game and, as a 3-seed playing in Buffalo, was bounced by 11-seed Dayton. After that first season, Syracuse has finished with conference records of 9-9, 9-9, 10-8, and 8-10. The Orange missed the post season due to a self-imposed ban in 2014-15, made the Final Four one year later, missed the NCAA Tournament in 2016-17, and, unexpectedly, at least to the “experts”, made the NCAAs this year highlighted by vanquishing 3-seed Michigan State in Detroit. Overall, the Orange split two games with Villanova, went 2-1 against UConn, 1-2 versus Georgetown, and 1-3 against St. John’s.

Villanova

To say it’s good to be Villanova is an understatement. In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock, the Wildcats just won its second national championship in the past three seasons and third overall. This time, Jay Wright’s squad didn’t need a buzzer-beating three-pointer as it did against North Carolina back in 2015-16. Instead, the Wildcats ran Michigan off the court, 79-62. Villanova also won four straight Big East regular season crowns before finishing second to Xavier this past season by one game. The Wildcats have a cumulative record of 165-21 in five seasons since Syracuse left for the ACC.

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Connecticut

With Syracuse off to greener pastures, UConn found itself in the newly formed American Athletic Conference. Behind second year head coach Kevin Ollie, the Huskies were the last team standing in March as UConn bested John Calipari’s Kentucky team for its fourth title. UConn fans must’ve felt as the program wouldn’t miss a beat with Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun off to retirement. The next two seasons saw an NIT and NCC appearance by the Huskies. But UConn has bottomed out the past two years with back-to-back losing records. In addition to Ollie’s dismissal and the subsequent hiring of Danny Hurley, UConn faces an uncertain future as it is the subject of an NCAA investigation.

Georgetown

Georgetown’s first two post Syracuse Big East seasons resulted in a 40-26 record with NIT and NCAA bids. Since then, the Hoyas have been a mess. The Hoyas have posted three straight losing seasons with an overall record of 44-51. Former Hoya great Patrick Ewing has taken the coaching reins after John Thompson III was fired in March of 2017.

St. John’s

The Johnnies have mimicked Georgetown’s fall from grace. After a 41-25 record that included NIT and NCAA bids, St. John’s has totally bottomed out. The last three seasons have yielded records of 8-24 (including a 16-game losing streak), 14-19, and 16-17. Like Ewing, his former Big East rival, St. John’s great Chris Mullin took over after Steve Lavin and the school agreed to part ways.

Syracuse’s move to the Atlantic Coast Conference was necessary to maintain a seat at the big money football table. And while the Orange still clashes annually with Pittsburgh and Boston College, there was always something special when the opponent was Villanova, UConn, Georgetown, or St. John’s.

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About Steve Auger 84 Articles
Steve Auger is a freelance writer whose work has covered a variety of topics including sports, pets, parenting, healthy living, local government and human interest stories. His work has been published on Care.com, Tom’s of Maine, Purina’s Petcentric.com and the Westford Patch. Steve’s been a diehard Syracuse sports fan for over 25 years. To this day, the words “Smart takes the shot” still make him cringe. Follow him on Twitter @Corner_Cube.