Orange Watch: The one opponent that will forever be linked with Syracuse basketball

Saturday’s opponent, Kansas, will be indelibly linked to any Syracuse fan as the opponent in the 2003 national championship win
Saturday’s opponent, Kansas, will be indelibly linked to any Syracuse fan as the opponent in the 2003 national championship win

Item: Certainly you might instantly think of Georgetown as the one all time rivalry connection to the modern era of Syracuse hoops during the 42 year Jim Boeheim run, and with good reason. There were so many famous games played among the 86 contests between SU and GU during the Big East days, and there’s still the heated competition during the current ACC era with the ‘Cuse still looking to beat the Hoyas for the first time in three tries in a couple of weeks (Dec. 16) in Washington. But first is the latest installment in what will be game six in the all time series against No. 2 ranked Kansas Saturday in Miami (5:30 p.m. ET / ESPN) to wrap up the Hoophall Invitational, with the Jayhawks eternally associated as the team Syracuse defeated to finally win a national championship in 2003.

As we’ve written previously, the one basketball program on top of our wish list to make a first-ever Dome appearance is Kansas, the one team among the sport’s four Blue Bloods ahead of Syracuse with the most victories in college basketball history (we don’t count Temple being a spot ahead due to the 2015 NCAA infractions) never to play under the Teflon roof. The two programs have played at the historic Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, and in near-by Kansas City among the five previous games, but not on the SU campus.

Perhaps that might occur before Jim Boeheim retires in the early 2020s if he and John Wildhack can coax a home-and-home series out of their counterparts, KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger and coach Bill Self who joined Boeheim in the Basketball Hall of Fame in September.

For now it’s another neutral court meeting on Saturday, as we look back on the five previous games played between the two programs:

1968 – In the fifth game of the season, and following a game at Kansas State the day before, Syracuse was blown out 71-41 at the “Phog.” Center Bill Smith, who still holds the school record for the most points (47) in a game, was SU’s leading scorer in the defeat with 11 points. Also in the starting lineup was forward Bob Kouwe, uncle of The Juice podcast host and former Orange walk-on guard Andrew Kouwe, a member of the ’03 title team.

» Related: How does Syracuse basketball look through six games compared to last year?

1996 – Following one of the most improbable comebacks in Syracuse NCAA history, beating Georgia in OT in the West Regional semifinals at Denver’s McNichols Sports Arena, the Orangemen’s 2-3 zone defense bewildered the Jayhawks into shooting just 4 of 25 from three point range (16%) to earn a trip to the school’s third Final Four with a 60-57 victory over No. 2 seed KU. Big men John Wallace and Otis Hill dominated underneath combining for 30 points, and the celebration included a postgame TV interview and sideline dance with the late Al McGuire, and the famous words from Wallace, ‘Cuse is in the House. Oh my God, Oh my God.”

2001 – One line apart as the No. 4 and 5 seeds, respectively, in the NCAA Midwest Regional opening rounds at Dayton, Kansas dominated the Orange on the glass (56-23 rebounding margin) and offensively in the second half (48 points) on route to an 87-58 blitz in the Round of 32. Following Boeheim’s 600th career victory two days earlier in an opening round win over Hawai’i, SU simply had no answer for a relentless KU team seeking to move into the Sweet 16 for the first time in three seasons. Preston Shumpert and DeShaun Williams each scored 20 points in the loss.

2003 – From the sweet pass by Carmelo Anthony to Craig Forth for the game’s first basket, to current assistant coach Gerry McNamara’s six treys in the first half, and finally to Hakim Warrick’s all time play blocking Michael Lee’s potential game-tying three-point shot with 1.5 seconds left, the ‘Cuse got “those four seconds” back from its 1987 title game loss to Indiana on the same Louisiana Superdome court to win its first NCAA Tournament championship. The 81-78 victory over Kansas set off a celebration never before experienced in central New York.

2008 – As part of the five game, beginning-of-the-season College Basketball Experience (CBE) Classic (which included an opening game 34 point win over LeMoyne at the Dome) Syracuse met Kansas in the championship game at Kansas City’s Sprint Center. Trailing most of the second half and down by 13 at one point in front of the partisan KU crowd, the Orange came roaring back. Jonny Flynn’s left side three-pointer with 6.4 seconds left in regulation forced overtime, and in OT it was all Orange, outscoring KU 17-9 to win 89-81. Flynn’s 25 points led a balanced ‘Cuse offense.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.