Former John Thompson Jr. player "Bashful" takes a look back to the beginning of the Georgetown-Syracuse Rivalry:
Like any red-blooded Hoya, the thought of that team dressed in Orange incites me now. But as a veteran of the Hoya Program from the 1970s, I have to say it wasn't really a rivalry back then, but had great potential. Now, with the Big East membership of Syracuse fast approaching an end it might be worthwhile to reflect on that rivalry from when it began-in the 1970s.
A look back after The Jump:
The first time GU played the then named Orangemen in that decade and the only time during my years at Georgetown, was in 1974 at the Kodak Christmas tournament in Rochester, New York. Rochester is not the greatest place to spend the week between Christmas and New Years but if you like basketball, it did provide some good games back in the day. The 1974-1975 version of the Orangemen were a good team that eventually made it to the Final Four in San Diego-the first Final Four in the school's history. But like a precursor to future disappointments for Syracuse, their schedule included a game with a then unheralded catholic school from DC in the opening round of a Christmas tournament in upstate NY that they were supposed to roll through.
Unfortunately for the Orangemen, that little known Hoyas team was on its way to its first NCAA tournament bid since 1943. The Syracuse team was led by 6'9" senior Rudy Hackett, a lightning fast point guard named Bug Williams and a good shooter named Jimmy Lee. They also had a large center named Ernie Siebert and let's just say that the adjective large may be kind to Ernie, who at 6'9" was listed at 260 lbs but looked like he was a lot heavier than that. Georgetown at the time was both tall-for the 1970s and for now. The front line was Merlin Wilson (6'9"), Bill Lynn (6'11"), and Ed Hopkins (6'9"). The backcourt had Jon Smith and Derrick Jackson, both who were offensive powerhouses, and one of the better defensive guards in GU history, Mike Riley. What ensued was a terrific game in which the Hoyas used their quickness, size and a great press to offset the hometown refereeing and take home a 71-70 Christmas present against the Orangemen.
There were three other games in the 1970s against Syracuse that helped the rivalry flourish - and all were Hoya wins. In 1979, the last season of our membership in the ECAC format of playoffs, the Hoyas beat the Orangemen, then ranked 6th in the country at the time, in the ECAC Upstate/South final to get the NCAA tournament bid at the Cole Field House, 66-58. The next year was the opening year of the Big East conference. What a year for college basketball and for Georgetown. For Syracuse, not so much. First the Hoyas knocked off their rivals (ranked #2) in the last game at Manley Field House, 52-50 in February. Then they took the first Big East tournament championship from the then # 3 ranked Orangemen 87-81 in Providence.
The 70s laid a great foundation for the rivalry over the next 30+ years. But now unfortunately due to Orange chasing green, it is either ending or reverting to a 1970s-and-before mode. Sure, we may get the occasional non-league games, but they will lack the punch of regular conference combat. The game on Wednesday night in the Carrier Dome will be tough. This version of Orange is a team that is equally as tall as ours and has more experience. But if history can inspire the Hoyas to beat a highly ranked and regarded Syracuse team, they need look no further than the Hoya squads of JT Jr. in the 1970s!