As you may have noticed, this is Syracuse Hate Week here on TheUConnBlog.com, which begs the question, why should UConn fans hate Syracuse above all others? There may not seem to be a reasonable answer, hell, UConn is not even Syracuse's main rival. I am sure there are plenty of Syracuse fans that hate the Huskies, but I am equally sure that they hate Georgetown more. (As the writer of the fantastic Syracuse blog Hoya Suxa pointed out, there is a reason the blog is called Hoya Suxa and not Huskies Smushkies.)
UConn, for all its achievements, has failed in one regard -- it does not have a bloody rivalry that stands above all else. There are certainly teams that UConn fans can reasonably hate, but there is no Duke to UConn's Carolina, no Red Sox to their Yankees, nor is there a Hatfield to their McCoy. Part of the problem is that UConn did not shine on the national stage prior to 1990, so most of the Big East's bloodiest rivalries were already set by the time UConn rose to prominence. While Syracuse and Georgetown were fighting epic battles, UConn was trying to avoid the dreaded 8-9 game in the Big East Tournament. There also is not a pure regional rival. The Big East has no other Connecticut schools, and there is no one close that matches UConn's year-in year-out dominance.
So why do UConn fans hate Syracuse above all else? And why do Pitt, St. Johns, Georgetown, Providence, Villanova and Boston College not have their own hate weeks? Find out after the jump.
Perhaps the best way to determine why there is a Syracuse Hate Week is to explain why other teams simply do not make the cut.
- First up is Georgetown, who is a valued rival, but certainly not hate worthy? Why you ask? Because from the late 1990's until roughly 2006, Georgetown was horrible. A good rule of thumb for Georgetown is that if the coach's name is not John Thompson, then the team is probably bad. From the 1997-98 season (the year after Allen Iverson left) until 2004-05 (the year before Roy Hibbert joined the team), Georgetown went an extremely mediocre 129-108. In that time span, all UConn did was win two national championships. Next!
- Second on the list is St. John's, who holds the all-time record for wins by a visiting team at Gampel Pavilion with three. St. Johns used to be a national powerhouse, but have been putrid for quite a while now. And by putrid, I mean they are horrible and there is no reason to expect that will change anytime soon. Moving on....
- Villanova gets the next shot. The Wildcats are arguably the team current UConn students hate most. Why? Because Villanova was extremely good in 2005-06. Villanova is a perennial Johnny-come-lately. They have had some great seasons ('85, '96 and '06), and are occasionally deserving of hate, but it just cannot be sustained (see 2000-2004).
- Providence is the next reject. Prior to last week's beatdown, the Friars had been a thorn in UConn's side for several years. They get points for being in neighboring Rhode Island, but their inability to have any sort of significant national presence keeps them from being hate-worthy.
- Boston College is the dark horse in UConn's hate lore. There are certainly reasons to hate the low-lifes from Chesnut Hill. But there are two reasons BC is disqualified. The first is that it was never much of a rivalry to begin with. From 1988-2001 UConn never lost to Boston College. That is right, 13 years and 23 games without a loss. Secondly, and more importantly, Jim Calhoun has vowed never to play BC again. It is tough to have a rival if they never step on the same court. Also, I hear everyone that attends that school hates puppies and candy.
- The final member of the hatred carousel is Pitt. I will be honest, if I had to bet, I'd say five years from now there will be no more Syracuse Hate Week. It will be Pitt Hate Week. Why? Because Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon have done an amazing job building Pitt into a powerhouse team. It seems that every player on the Pitt roster is between 6'4" and 6'10" and perfectly fits the description of a "goon." Every time the Huskies and Panthers meet the game is a physical battle and they are usually fantastic matchups. The only reason Pitt is not atop the UConn hate list is that the school simply has not been good enough for long enough.
So, with those teams disqualified, why is Syracuse left standing as the team that is most deserving of a hate week? I'll give you three reasons:
- They have been consistently good. Sure, they have not been quite at UConn's level for the past 20 years, but of all the Big East teams, they are by far the closest. They have a national championship and two final fours and never seem to be down for long.
- The coaches. Calhoun has 796 wins, Boeheim has 788. They're both named Jim. They have radically different styles but both still succeed and their presence always creates a fun extra storyline for any matchup.
- In a famous episode of The Simpsons, Lisa Simpson asks bully Nelson Muntz why he has a poster on his wall that says "Nuke The Whales." His response? "You've got to nuke something." Syracuse is UConn's whale. Sure, we're not their main rival, but a lot of that probably has to do with the fact that they'd like to be able to beat their main rival. In the end, all that really matters is that UConn fans have to hate somebody, and that somebody is Syracuse.