The Hilltop is abuzz this week. “Breathe if You Hate Duke” T-shirts have been sprinkled around, a certain campus newspaper published a “Beat Duke” banner (see inside!) and everywhere you go someone seems to be asking, “Are you going to the game on Saturday?”
People are pleading for a Gray-out, CBS will be gracing the District with its presence, and the Hoya Hoop Club is offering up free food and cheap beers at Gordon Biersch before the game. Plus, the ticket office sent out enough e-mails to remind people to pick up their tickets by Wednesday that you would have thought you were picking up tickets for the last ferry out of Gotham City.
It’s as if the Super Bowl has come a week early.
To be fair, Saturday’s game is huge for so many reasons. It features two – for now – top-10 teams, with Georgetown hoping to rebound from a blowout loss to Syracuse, and it’s an opportunity to get an RPI boost for themselves and the Big East.
This game is big, but it seems as if it is being treated as a rivalry, which it is not – at least not yet.
It may become a rivalry in the near future, but a series that has only been played 13 times isn’t there yet. This is the final game of a contract between the two schools that featured four games in five years. If this game becomes an annual non conference matchup, then it could become a great one, as these are two elite academic schools, with somewhat similar student populations, interconnected alumni bases and elite programs.
But this is being treated as if it is the biggest game of the year when Duke fans surely wouldn’t put hosting the Hoyas above either of the home-and-away matchups with North Carolina. They may still be miffed about the fact that Greg Monroe committed to Georgetown just days before he was supposed to visit the hallowed halls of Durham, but Duke’s attention is still on North Carolina, no matter their record.
uch of the excitement may be derived from memories of 2006. On Jan. 21, 2006 an unranked Georgetown team upset the undefeated and top-ranked Duke. Students rushed the court, held 7-foot-2 giant Roy Hibbert aloft, and the Hoyas announced to the nation that they were back. I was in attendance that day, and there was something special about watching an unranked team take down the best team and player (J.J. Reddick) in the land.
That was a great day, but it isn’t 2006 anymore.
Georgetown is ranked higher than the Blue Devils and is probably the better team. The ACC this year does not compare to the Big East, and Duke has managed to win only one true road game.
By all accounts, Georgetown can and should win this game. That’s a big difference from 2006 when it
was like Cinderella putting on the glass slipper. There is no reason for Georgetown and its fans to be in awe of Duke.
There are other games that should be seen in the same light as Saturday’s, but a blasé attitude is being taken toward them.
aryland has been and always will be the most logical choice for a rival, but a mixture of greed and pride has put that series on hold since 1993 – minus a 2001 Sweet 16 matchup and last year’s Old Spice Classic consolation game. Yet while all of this attention is being shown toward Duke, Georgetown’s biggest rival, Syracuse, is poised for a No. 1 ranking – partly thanks to the Hoyas’ meltdown in the Dome – and yet there has been no word of a Gray-out for Feb. 18.
Thursday Gray-outs are obviously tough to come by because fans are coming from work or class, but on Feb. 6, No. 3 Villanova, another conference rival that could stake claim to the top spot in the rankings, comes to Georgetown.
The Wildcats have all the makings of a rival. Both are similar schools academically -though we’ll give Georgetown the nod – have a Catholic tradition, lack big time football – Villanova may have won the national championship this year, but it’s still FCS and not a cash cow FBS program, not to mention the biggest win in Villanova history came at the expense of a Georgetown national championship.
Scottie Reynolds, a local prep star, was spurned by Georgetown, and he has spent the past four years dissecting Hoya defenses – yet the buzz surrounding the game still doesn’t compare to Saturday’s game against Duke.
Plus, both the Syracuse and Villanova games offer Georgetown a chance to secure two byes in the Big East tournament, which makes the road to the Big East championship that much easier. Wins over Duke are nice, but get yourself in the Big East tournament championship, even if you don’t win, and then you’re looking at a pretty favorable seed from the NCAA Selection Committee.
aybe the routine of playing these teams twice a year dulls the importance of the game to fans, while the novelty of playing Duke so infrequently heightens it. It shouldn’t.
In discussing Syracuse, Georgetown’s players noted the history of the rivalry, whereas mention of Duke elicited responses such as, “It’s just another game.” Head Coach John Thompson III was asked about where Duke ranked alongside Syracuse and Villanova, and he didn’t hesitate.
“No, they’re not in [the Big East],” he said. “They’re a terrific program. It’s been a great series for us, both the good and the bad. But at the end of the day, our Big East games this time of the year are more important. That’s not to say this isn’t an important game, that’s not to say we’re not excited, that’s not to say the fans aren’t excited, that’s not to say their team isn’t excited about this. But at the end of the day, regardless of what happens on Saturday, we’re going to have to come back and be ready for South Florida.”
It doesn’t matter, though, because come Saturday, people will be lined up, and some may even be camping out outside Verizon Center. Despite having two rivals already, Georgetown wants to treat this non conference game as if it is the Big Game or Michigan-Ohio State.
So if a rivalry is what the people want, then both universities should oblige. Just make the series an annual thing so that the tradition can be built. If the games mount and the memories of the matchup extend further than just Brandon Bowman backdoor cuts or a phantom technical foul on Greg Monroe in Cameron, and if the Duke fan base starts to see this as something more than an interesting matchup, then it can be considered a rivalry.
Until then, this is just a marquee non conference game and nothing else.
Ryan Travers is a senior in the College and a former Sports Editor at The Hoya. Follow him on [Twitter](https://twitter.com/illprocedure). He can be reached at traversthehoya.com. Illegal Procedure appears in every Friday edition of Hoya Sports.”