After last week's hot performance by St. John's (6-2) at Madison Square Garden, thoughts of the fans drifted from the on-court blowout of Fordham to the next week's strongly anticipated affair, with chants of "We Want Cuse" echoing up and back from the rafters.
Sunday's noon tilt against Syracuse (9-0) - 2nd or 3rd ranked, depending on whether you prefer the Associated Press rankings or the Coaches Poll done by USA Today - reaches back to a classic Big East rivalry, and will be prominently featured as a big-time matchup on Fox Sports 1.
Bill Raftery - he of the "onions" call - and Gus Johnson - he of the excited "Gusgasm" in his play-by-play - will be bringing the action to the nation's televisions with panache and excitement. St. John's fans want to knock off a top-five team, which would be a validation of the Red Storm's immense talent and potential. And making the "New York's College Team" tagline Syracuse has been advertising for years more spurious (or graffiti-ing over it) wouldn't hurt.
It's big for everyone, isn't it?
Not for the visiting Orange, who moved on to a stabler and richer affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference, hastening the demise and rebirth of the Big East as a basketball-focused conference.
"You are going to play non-league games; once you get into a different league, those games are just not the same," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said after his Orange mowed down the Binghamton Bearcats, 96-53. "They don’t have the same meaning; it is just the way it is."
Yesterday, per the NY Post, he added that "it's different, but it's still a good rivalry. It’s an excellent game. That's [what] you play in December, games that will help you. This will help both teams."
It's not insignificant, exactly, but the game doesn't inflame the passions on the Syracuse side that it does on the St. John's side. Syracuse fans (this one, for example) feel that the matchup is more important for the chance to play in Madison Square Garden - in the metropolis where many Syracuse fans and graduates live - and in the storied arena.
There's good reason for this to be a big game for a St. John's team working towards a resurgence this year, The Red Storm last beat the Orange in 2006, at Carnesecca Arena; the Orange have won the last eight meetings in a rivalry that stretches back to 1912.
And the talent base of the Johnnies is stronger. And with the efficient performances of JaKarr Sampson (6/6 shooting, 12 pts) and Orlando Sanchez (8/10 shooting, 19 pts/ 8 reb/ 4 ast) and the explosion of Sir`Dominic Pointer (12 pts/ 11 ast/ 9 reb), this is the team's best chance all year to plant their flag in the national consciousness before the NCAA Tournament.
For St. John's, the chance at a big victory - and a chance to tilt the fan balance in favor of the actual home team - are important. From SNY, JaKarr Sampson said, "it’s always fun to play Syracuse. It’s a lot of Syracuse fans in here even though it’s our homecourt."
The fans and team want Cuse, if only for revenge and to take the home court back. With the high-level athletes and a packed house, this weekend's game should be a thrilling affair in and out of the Garden, even if the Syracuse side downplays the significance of the old rivals meeting.
It may not be the "same" as a game with Big East implications, but announcer Bill Raftery is excited. "For me it's enjoyable to see one of the old Big East teams back," he said. "I think it's good for New York because The Garden loves Syracuse, and of course it's the home court for St. John's... there's been a connection for years."