The folks who cover Syracuse athletics are making a big deal about the Orange playing defending national champions in both their football and basketball home openers this coming season.
And it’s true, but I don’t think it compares to what teams from Auburn faced just last November.
First, here’s the Syracuse story. The Orange’s home opener in football is against Clemson. Never mind Syracuse plays two away games to start the season, but the fact is, Clemson its home-opening opponent.
The basketball season starts at home against Virginia.
Has this ever happened before? Yes, but only once: Purdue in 1967.
In 1966, Notre Dame shared the national title in football with Michigan State. The following season Notre Dame opened on the road at Purdue.
Purdue’s football team, ranked No. 10 in the country, knocked off preseason No. 1 Notre Dame, 28-21.
John Wooden later brought his national champion UCLA Bruins to Purdue to open the 1967-68 season against his alma mater. Wooden had been an All-American at Purdue in the 1930s.
Purdue’s basketball team almost pulled off a huge upset before losing 73-71. That UCLA team would go on to win its second of seven straight NCAA championshis.
Its only loss came against Houston in the Game of the Century at the Astrodome.
I would point out, unlike Syracuse this year, Purdue faced defending champs in their teams’ opening games, not just home openers.
Still, I think neither is as incredible as what Auburn teams faced last November, and it sorta came about by chance.
In the week leading up to the Iron Bowl, in which the Tigers would play undefeated and No. 1-ranked Alabama, AU’s basketball team drew No. 1 Duke (and freshman phenom Zion Williamson) in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational at Lahaina, Hawaii.
Auburn had to win the game before to draw Duke, so it wasn’t actually scheduled, but they played on Tuesday, Nov. 20. The double No. 1 matchups made some noise in these parts but not enough to my way of thinking.
Auburn brought a No. 8 ranking into its game with Duke, which had won all of its previous games in major blowouts. In perhaps a foreshadowing of the future for both teams, Auburn played the Blue Devils off their feet before falling 78-72.
Duke was taken down the very next game and wasn’t the same for the rest of the season. Auburn, of course, made a run to the Final Four and almost beat eventual national champ Virginia in the semifinals.
• Speaking of college basketball, ESPN recently announced Alabama will play North Carolina in its first game of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Nov. 27. The game will be broadcast on either ESPN or ESPN2.
College basketball analyst Andy Katz says Alabama is playing in the best nonconference tournament.
Here are the other quarterfinal matchups: Michigan vs. Iowa State; Gonzaga vs. Southern Miss.; and Seton Hall vs. Oregon.