Before beating No. 1 Syracuse, Boston College had beaten just one team in 2014 -- Virginia Tech twice. (Kevin Rivoli/Getty)
Syracuse losing to Boston College at home on Wednesday was bad. Real bad. That the Orange ought not to have lost the game is a water-is-wet-level assertion.
Here’s a closer look at just how bad it was, and how that affects the outlook for the formerly undefeated and soon-to-be-former-No. 1 team in the nation.
Ugly numbers. ESPN Stats & Info did a fine job collating the various, miserable accomplishments. No sub.-500 team had beaten the Associated Press No. 1 on the road since 1955. No team ever had more losses and beat a No. 1-ranked team. And only twice before had the AP No. 1 lost to an opponent with a winning percentage under .400 in February or later.
Biggest flop. About the only losses by a No. 1 team in the modern era that are remotely comparable to Syracuse’s defeat would be Notre Dame ending UCLA’s 88-game winning streak in 1974, NAIA member Chaminade defeating Virginia in 1982 and a 9-18 UCLA team upending No. 1 Arizona in March of 2003.
But that Irish team was actually quite good -- they were No. 2 going into that game and took over the top ranking themselves after that win -- and UCLA had future NBA players like Jason Kapono and Ryan Hollins on the roster. An NAIA team like Chaminade winning is so absurd that it almost defies comparison – but then the Silverswords were on their home floor, too. It’s arguable no No. 1 team has flopped quite like this, ever.
Upset of the year. Accordingly, no one has seen an upset of this magnitude this season. The previous losses by No. 1-ranked teams were all reasonable: Michigan State beating Kentucky on a neutral court, North Carolina beating Michigan State in East Lansing and Cal defeating Arizona by two at home in a game in which the Wildcats lost Brandon Ashley to a broken foot.
And as bad as some other games have seemed at the time – Belmont over North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Northwestern over Wisconsin in Madison, etc. – none were as glaring as this.
Orange is the new blue. So Syracuse lost a game, and surely they are sad about it. It was a seriously disappointing night for most of the 26,716 fans at the Carrier Dome, but it did not destroy what the Orange have built. At 25-1 and 12-1 in the ACC, they are tied in the loss column of the league standings and still very much in contention for an ACC title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and they remain on the short list of legitimate contenders for a national championship.
Still, for a team that flirted with its first loss in each of its two previous games -- Tyler Ennis' buzzer-beating three rescued Cuse against Pitt on Feb. 12 and C.J. Fair's basket in the final seconds gave them a one-point win over N.C. State at home last Saturday -- it might be advisable to stop skirting so close to disaster from here on out. The gap between Syracuse and the rest of the field contending for a No. 1 seed shrank considerably with Wednesday's loss.
Consecutive losses for the Orange are a real possibility too, given that they visit No. 5 Duke on Saturday in a rematch of the Feb. 1 overtime instant classic. Should Syracuse lose there and if Virginia dispatches struggling Notre Dame at home, the Orange won't even be atop the ACC anymore. The good news for Syracuse is that it has yet to face the Cavaliers
. The bad: Their lone meeting takes place on March 1 in Charlottesville where Virginia hasn't lost to a league opponent all year. Which means that Wednesday's loss may yet prove as damaging as it was shocking.