This first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Syracuse men's basketball team has been an interesting animal.
So much has been familiar.
The 18-0 start as Orange fans throughout Central New York await Saturday's game against Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., is a level Syracuse reached in three of the last four seasons.
Foes that have fallen in ACC play include Pittsburgh last Saturday. The Hurricanes became the first ACC win in history. Virginia Tech came next. Boston College also has made the vanquished list. The pre-conference schedule allowed wins over St. John's and Villanova.
Frequent Big East reminders, anyone?
Thank goodness the schedule-maker threw in that early January contest in the Dome with North Carolina to remind all that Syracuse really did move to the ACC.
Fans gathered at Rosie's, the popular sports bar perched at the entranceway to buzzing Syracuse neighborhood Tipp Hill, to watch Saturday's exciting 59-54 victory over Pittsburgh in big and loud fashion.
Six longtime fans sat together at one well-placed high-top.
Rich Baniewicz of Syracuse proudly wore an orange T-shirt. In this land of Orange Wear, Baniewicz stood out because his T read: "Life IS Fair" on the back, with Syracuse senior C.J. Fair's No. 5 underneath. The front featured a likeness of Fair shooting the ball over the words "The Fairwell Tour."
You will not find it hanging for sale alongside the increasingly popular "Beat Duke" shirts at the many Central New York stores that sell such things.
Rich's wife, Connie, secured this special shirt from a friend who's fan-group made them up.
"They gave one to C.J. Fair's mother, and she loved it," Connie Baniewicz said. "He got that shirt because of me."
Rich Baniewicz beamed.
He's liking this first season in the ACC. A lot.
Baniewicz says he's proud of the way that Syracuse and Pittsburgh stood undefeated and 1-2 in ACC play going into Saturday's contest. He adds that he thinks Louisville will do the ACC proud, too, next season, when it joins those two and Notre Dame as the newest Big East torchbearers to follow Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College to the ACC.
"It seems a little easier (than the Big East) so far," Baniewicz says. "I miss the Big East for basketball. I liked the ACC a lot for football."
He holds season tickets for football, he says, and enjoyed the Orange's .500 ACC initial season and the subsequent Texas Bowl victory over Minnesota of the Big Ten.
With basketball, though, he mostly happily watches on TV.
"I'm really looking forward to the Duke game (Feb. 1 in the Carrier Dome)," Baniewicz says. "I'm looking forward to the first ACC tournament. And I'm looking forward to the first time the ACC Tournament comes to New York City."
Baniewicz considers his allegiance. "I do think it was a good move for us to get into the ACC," he says. "I think continuity is the best thing about the ACC. It's not going anywhere."
Baniewicz's cousin, Bill Dwyer of Syracuse, has some short-term goals for Syracuse in the ACC.
"I think a strong finish will be good," Dwyer says. "They've shown they can possibly win it."
They returned to their conversation, ready to keep their eyes fixed to the 22 flat screens -- and one old-style tube in the men's room -- that had fans bananas for the intense victory over the Panthers that put Syracuse in sole possession of first place in the ACC. The wily freshman Tyler Ennis teamed wonderfully with smart senior Fair. Life in the ACC was good.
Are you happy with Syracuse's move from the Big East to the ACC so far this basketball season? Do you feel the Pittsburgh rivalry will blossom in the new league? Will Duke be able to replace Georgetown as the No. 1 league rival in your book? Share your opinions by clicking comment.