History is kind to the one-loss Orange
The number of teams chasing perfection diminished by half Thursday night, and now one of those can relax a bit.
Wichita State now has all the attention as the lone undefeated team after Boston College shocked Syracuse on Wednesday night for the first loss of the season for the Orange.
Coaches and players who have been in the position of an undefeated team at this stage of the season have said losing relieves some of the pressure of remaining perfect.
Before Wednesday, Syracuse had been far from perfect despite the record. Close calls with Duke, Pittsburgh and NC State turned into a shocking loss to 7-19 Boston College, an upset that would rival a No. 2 losing to a No. 15 in the NCAA Tournament.
Will a loss loosen up Syracuse in time for the stretch run? History says teams losing their first game this late in the season flourish for the remainder of the year.
Every other team in Syracuse’s position reached Selection Sunday with only one loss. With road trips looming against Duke and Virginia plus an ACC Tournament, Boeheim may count himself lucky to get to Selection Sunday with only one more loss, especially given the performance Wednesday.
Since the field expanded, though, only one team that sustained its first loss after Feb. 15 went on to win the national title — 1992 Duke. All but one reached the Elite Eight.
Since the field expanded in 1985, nine teams have been undefeated as of Feb. 15, including Syracuse and Wichita State this season.
Here’s what they’ve done the rest of the way, followed by a few notes:
|Unbeaten on Feb. 15||Started||Finished||NCAA Tourney||First Loss||RPI|
|2013-14 Wichita State||28-0||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|2013-14 Syracuse||25-0||0-1||N/A||Boston College||169|
|2007-08 Memphis||26-0||12-2||National runner up||Tennessee||1|
|2004-05 Illinois||29-0||8-2||National runner up||at Ohio State||51|
|2003-04 St. Joseph's||27-0||3-2||Elite Eight||Xavier (A-10 Tourney)||35|
|2003-04 Stanford||26-0||4-2||Round of 32||at Washington||7|
|1995-96 UMass||26-0||9-2||Final Four||George Washington||50|
|1991-92 Duke||22-0||13-1||National champion||at Wake Forest||48|
|1990-91 UNLV||34-0||0-1||National runner up||Duke (NCAA Tourney)||3|
• Every team that picked up its first loss after Feb. 15 didn’t lose again until the NCAA Tournament. That includes conference tournament championship for all but 2004 St. Joe’s, which was undefeated until it lost to Xavier in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
• Most concerning for Syracuse isn’t so much that the Orange lost. It’s that Jim Boeheim’s team lost to a dreadful Boston College team. The Eagles entered the game ranked 194th in the RPI and 152nd on KenPom.com. After the win, BC ranked 169th in the RPI and 131st on KenPom. Every other team’s first loss came to a team that ranked 51st in the final RPI or higher. This year’s Boston College squad almost certainly finishes outside of the top 100.
• If Wichita State loses before the round of 32 at least, the Shockers also will fall to a team outside of the RPI top 50.