That was it?
Ever since the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season basketball schedules were released, January 11th was a day for which Syracuse hoops fans had longed. It would be the day the Orange officially arrived in the ACC.
All the non-conference foes would have already had their shots at knocking off the Orange and Syracuse would have gotten through its intra-conference warmups.
January 11th was the day one of the blue bloods of college hoops, North Carolina, was going set foot in the Carrier Dome on a Saturday afternoon in what was sure to draw the customary 30,000+ fans that embark on The Loud House when such an occasion calls. Few other games have been as highly-anticipated around Central New York.
And flock, those Syracuse fans did. The Syracuse team was ready. Trevor Cooney, Tyler Cooney, Gerry Cooney…all the Cooneys suited up. Gerry and Joey McNamara sat on the bench in suit and tie. There were young men garnished in Carolina blue uniforms opposing the Syracuse squad, as well. Only one thing was missing:
The customary talent we are used to seeing exude from the young men in Carolina blue…seriously, that was it?
It started off innocently enough. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 10-4 lead and, with eight of the first 10 points for UNC, it appeared the good James Michael McAdoo had showed up for the afternoon.
A 23-5 run later, the Orange took a 12-point lead into the locker room and extended it to 19 before the Heels scored nine of the last 11 points of the game in garbage time to give the final score the appearance of a somewhat-competitive game.
Every loose ball and seemingly every Syracuse miss found its way into the hands of a Syracuse player. It was almost unfair.
By the middle of the second half, UNC coach Roy Williams was defenseless against his fury at how much his team was being outworked. The body language on the Tar Heels was universally interpreted as “defeated.” Even Jim Boeheim was kicked back in his…eh, who are we kidding? He was still pacing and gesturing as if the team was down four with a minute to go.
But what came through more clearly (at least through the television) than all of that was the reaction of the Orange faithful. As the game wound down, it was as if someone stuck a pin in the Carrier Dome bubble and let out all the enthusiasm. Rather than loud sounds of excitement, approval or an uncontained roar that usually accompany a convincing win over a big-time program, it was a very business-like reaction from those in attendance. Be it from boredom, disbelief or pity, the Syracuse fans didn’t seem like they knew how to react. It felt like the crowd at the end of a ho-hum win over the likes of Rutgers, Providence or Set on Hall.
Rarely is a blowout win over a team like North Carolina received in such a “disappointed” fashion. They almost seemed like they felt sorry for UNC…that was it, Tar Heels?
The Syracuse fans wanted a good game. They wanted an epic “arrival” into their new conference. Don’t get me wrong, they wanted a win. We wanted a win. But, they wanted an exciting game.
Luckily for the fans, the other date that was circled on the calendar is just a few short Saturdays away against some other folks from the Tar Heel State. This team is yet another blue blood…this time, just a different shade of blue.
The Duke Blue Devils are a better team than the Heels. However, with four losses (two of them in-conference to lesser opponents Notre Dame and Clemson) this season, Duke finds itself outside the Top 10 for the first time in over six years. The Blue Devils are almost outside the Top 25 altogether.
The ACC was supposed to be the premier basketball conference in the country this season. Syracuse was supposed to fortify that claim. Instead, to this point, it has been the only structure holding that claim up.
Central New Yorkers certainly hope for a victorious contest on February 1st against the Blue Devils. A hard-fought, storybook beginning to the new conference rivalry would be icing on the cake. Syracuse has the confidence to take on anyone in the country these days. It’s up to Duke to leave the Orange fans uttering something after the game other than, “that was it, Duke?”