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.