Syracuse Basketball: Empire Classic to conjure up painful 1991 memories

Syracuse basketball (Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball (Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images) /

In mid-March of 1991, a Syracuse basketball squad led by former star Billy Owens made NCAA Tournament history, but in a way that Orange fans would like to forget.

In the first round of the 1991 Big Dance, the No. 2 seed ‘Cuse fell to No. 15 seed Richmond by a final count of 73-69. That stunner marked the first time a No. 2 seed had lost in the opening round of March Madness.

The pesky Richmond Spiders shocked the college basketball world on March 14, 1991, knocking off the mighty Orange inside Cole Field House on the campus of the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.

Richmond, a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, could meet up with the ‘Cuse next season, according to a media report. How fun would that be (insert sarcasm here)?

Syracuse basketball and an old friend will participate in the same 2022 pre-season tourney.

Per Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, the four teams that will play in the 2022 Empire Classic are the Orange, Richmond, former Big East Conference rival St. John’s and Temple.

Rothstein reports that the 2022 Empire Classic will occur this coming November, although the dates, match-ups and location of this pre-season tourney are still to be determined.

Part of me wants to see the ‘Cuse suit up versus Richmond, although Syracuse basketball potentially playing St. John’s or Temple would be fun, too.

All-time, the Orange is 3-1 against the Spiders. Since that dreadful 1991 setback, Syracuse basketball has won three straight over Richmond. Their most recent battle came in November of 2008, when the ‘Cuse scored a home defeat of the Spiders, 76-71.

By the way, to date in the 2021-22 campaign, Richmond has compiled an overall mark of 17-9, including an 8-5 record in Atlantic 10 Conference competition.

Historically, the Empire Classic has taken place at Madison Square Garden in New York City, although the event was held in Las Vegas in 2021.

The last time that Syracuse basketball played in the Empire Classic, during the 2018-19 term, things didn’t go so well for the Orange. The ‘Cuse lose both of its games, to another former Big East rival, Connecticut, as well as Oregon.

For some context, all-time Syracuse basketball is 51-40 against St. John’s, and the Orange is 16-14 versus Temple, which plays in the American Athletic Conference.

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