Syracuse Basketball: What Exactly Is A Bad Loss?

Rich Barnes

After Wednesday's awful loss to Boston College, TNIAAMers Jared Smith and Matt McClusky got in Twitter discussion about Syracuse's worst loss ever. Their debate carried over into an epic e-mail thread that tries to figure out if this is actualy the program's worse loss ever.

It was not long after the No. 1-ranked Syracuse Orange lost to the (terrible, awful, awful and terrible) Boston College Eagles, 62-59, Wednesday night when the topic was raised on Twitter: "Is this Syracuse's worst loss in program history?"

Leading what seemingly is the pack of the majority (Team You Bet Your Ass It Is) was TNIAAM contributor Matt McCluskywho had some support from some famous SU alums. Meanwhile, Team Slow Your Damn Roll was captained by yours truly. What transpired was a long 140-character-at-a-time debate about the philosophy on how to rank the worst losses ever. That debate carried over into an epic e-mail back-and-forth.

Below is the e-mail correspondence. You all can decide the winner—I know I am looking at pulling off a Boston College-like victory.

(Oh, and after you're done you can check out this FanPost by acurrier, who does a great job breaking it down as well.)

Matt McClusky: So last night, in the heat of the moment, I tweeted to you that this is the worst loss in regular season Syracuse history. Now, having hours to sit and think, I'm going to say that THIS IS THE WORST REGULAR SEASON LOSS IN SYRACUSE HISTORY.

Here's a fun stat: No team with 19 losses had ever beaten a No. 1 ranked team...until last night!

My thinking goes like this, if Tyler Ennis' shot to win at the buzzer was one of the all-time greats (regular season greatest) for a variety of reasons, all of those same reasons are in play to make this the worst. I understand a lot of fans think the DePaul loss in '06 was worse, given that SU was BLOWN OUT by a horrible Blue Demons team, but I just can't get over the fact that not only was Syracuse number one overall, it was undefeated and playing the worst team in the ACC. Inexplicable, inexcusable and impossible to fathom.

But I'm guessing, hours later, you still don't agree. So...why not?

Jared Smith: Ohhhhhh, I see. We're changing our tune a little bit, huh? I guess, in fairness, you're allowed to do this given you had time to sleep on it.

However, luckily for you, our debate doesn't change much because I still feel much worse about the regular season loss to Georgetown last year at the Verizon Center (we freaking scoring 39 points in an embarrassment of a showing-after that we basically wrote that squad off); the 2006 massacre at DePaul which was also embarrassing (remember there was high expectations for that Gerry McNamara-led squad, which ended up with a Big East record of 7-9); and remember the following season SU lost early to a Wichita State squad that went 17-14 and 8-10 in the Missouri Valley Conference? Thanks to that loss, the Orange missed the NCAA Tournament that year!!

Now, that's just the regular season losses I can think of that felt worse than this one last night. All-time, don't get me started on the 2005 NCAA first-round loss to Vermont, the 2006 NCAA first-round loss to Texas A&M, that god awful crap show of a NCAA game against Ohio State a few years back. That was brutal.

But, see, that's were we differ on ranking "worse SU losses of all-time." You're judging it on paper (by rankings, RPI, KenPom, whatever), while I am going by emotional feelings.

Last night's loss sucked, but in no way do I feel bad about this team when it comes to its overall ability to get to the Final Four. Syracuse was 25-0 when it played B.C. last night and wasn't playing well. Finally, the Orange's poor shooting caught up with them and the Eagles literally did everything they needed to do to pull off a win. This happens in college basketball all the time. Heck, just last night No. 2 Florida almost lost to Auburn (4-9 in the SEC), while No. 4 Arizona just got by an unranked Utah team (6-8 in the Pac-12). If B.C. was Binghamton University. NOW, you have my attention.

MM: I think you're missing that Boston College, for all intent and purpose, IS BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY. Do you know what the Eagles' RPI is right now? 131! That's after earning the best win for any team this season. So, while you say you aren't ranking losses by statistics, I think you are inadvertently putting Boston College on a level just because it has some name recognition.

Syracuse's loss to Georgetown in D.C. or even at the Dome was a defeat to a ranked RIVAL. I don't think you went into those games with the Hoyas last season thinking Syracuse absolutely couldn't lose. But, even with Syracuse playing down to opponents, I would bet no one thought the Orange was going to lose to the Eagles. Did you expect a closer-than-expected ugly win? Sure. A loss to THAT team? No way.

You know, while I prefaced this was the worst regular season loss, I'm talking myself into thinking last night was worse. That Texas A&M game you referenced wasn't really that bad -- McNamara was super hurt and SU was drained from the run at the Garden (and the Aggies were NOT a 12 seed). As far as tough tourney losses go (ignoring the obvious loss to Indiana -- where a six-year old Matt is still crying) Richmond is tops, followed in some order by Vermont, Navy and Rhode Island.

But you probably could make an argument that a tourney loss is in a vacuum because March is always kind of a crap-shoot against supposed top competition.

Yet, the bigger point here for me is that it's okay to be super upset and disgusted about losing to Boston College, to call one of the worse losses ever for the program (which it is) and still fully expect Syracuse to bounce back. I hate this mentality that if you're upset you're automatically overreacting. I'm not overreacting, I'm actually being fairly blunt and truthful. Really SU should be fine, but it's okay to be angry and also have some doubts, too.

JS: First, let me start off by saying you have ever right to be upset about last night's loss, as it showcased basically everything that is wrong with this 25-1 team at the moment-SU is missing wide-open shots, can't rebound consistently, missing clutch free throws (which went in earlier in the year), C.J. Fair looks completely gassed, Tyler Ennis is continuing to make freshmen mistakes, Trevor Cooney couldn't hit water if he fell of a boat... You can go on and on. Fine. If that's what you want to do after this loss then it is OK. Hell, Syracuse fans haven't had the opportunity to go ape-shit insane over a loss in 11 months, 4 days (March 16 vs. Louisville in the Big East Tournament), so I understand this is new to us this year.

But, slow your roll when it comes to comparing Boston College to Binghamton, which RPI is 340 out of 351! In fact, let's us talk about using the RPI as a measurement of awfulness shall we?

Ranked 121 in the RPI is Akron, which sits a top of the MAC standings. Not saying Syracuse SHOULD lose to these guys but if the Orange play bad on a night, while the Zips, who have decent talent on their squad, plays good SU could lose.

Remember that St. Francis team that almost beat Syracuse this season? RPI of 234. (Now, think about this, if Syracuse HAD lost to St. Francis then and went on to win all of these games until NOW how would that loss looked?)

Now, you're going to say I am missing your point, but, really, I get your point-Syracuse is the No. 1 team in all of the land and should never lose, especially at home, against a team like Boston College, which "sucks," according to Florida's Patrick Young. That's why it has to be looked as one of the worst losses in program history. Fine. I agree. I'll give you that.

But, I am still not giving you its a top 5 loss of all-time or maybe top 10, because I don't judge bad loses just by standings, rankings, RPI or whatever advanced stats you want to throw at me. I am telling you, I have witnessed worse losses to better teams...

...Wait... Maybe, that's the kicker in this whole thing... If you want to classify it as the worst "upset" Syracuse has ever suffered then I think we're on the same page.

What do you think?

MM: I don't really see too much separation between "worst loss" and "worst upset loss," honestly. B.C. has lost 19 times this season and it just came into the Dome and beat Syracuse. Even if we put aside Syracuse's record, ranking and its poor play lately, the Orange still has no business losing that game, period. What is that, the third home loss in three years? In late February? You say Binghamton has an RPI in the 300s so that makes dropping a game to a team that was rated in the 170 range before Wednesday, okay?

This is all types of ugly and it's okay to delve into the muck.

Here's what I'm wondering, everyone seems to be saying SU will wake up and be fine, that it will rebound and move forward. But how concerned should fans be that since the Duke game the Orange has been sleepwalking through games?

JS: Before I answer your last question, I'll quickly say it is not okay for Syracuse to lose these types of games. I am saying this does happen in college basketball all the time—like when Belmont (RPI 133) defeated North Carolina on its home floor, or when Northwestern (RPI 120) downed No. 16-ranked Wisconsin on the road.

There's talk all the time about parity in college basketball right now, and Jim Boeheim has talk about this a lot in his press conferences, that this isn't as much of a shock as it used to be. That's why I have a hard time saying it was one of our worst loses ever.

Now, onto your question. I think the concerned level should rise if a few things happen: 1) Syracuse gets blown out by 20-plus points and doesn't compete, and 2) It is found that Baye Moussa Kieta will not be The Matrix we need him to be. If those things happen, then we should start rethinking things a bit.

But, right now, I am not worried. Syracuse is in a mid-season slump and I trust Boeheim and company to figure out how to get this team out of it.

MM: Mine broaching the question of worry or concern certainly doesn't mean I'm thinking SU can't bounce back. But I think, if you take away the national negative narratives regarding SU lately, I think it's perfectly within reason to worry that Syracuse could get run out of Cameron. Not just because of the loss to B.C. but because of the overall play for Syracuse since its win against the Blue Devils earlier this month.

Let me be clear, though, I don't think the Orange gets clobbered, but it has to be in the back of fans' minds.

But the great thing about college hoops, about SU and Boeheim is that a win Saturday renders yesterday all but moot, right? It's an aberration if the Orange gets a W against Duke, isn't it?

JS: Sure it does, and this get back to my main point about the worst loss ever discussion.

Syracuse is now 25-1 and Boston College is 7-19. If this was the NFL, and the Orange were say, the 11-0 Seattle Seahawks, while the Eagles were say, the 1-10 Jacksonville Jaguars, and Jacksonville beat Seattle in the regular season it would be a sucky loss for the Seahawks, which could raise questions about the team, however, there's no way their fan base is debating if this was the worse loss in franchise history. (At least, if I am a fan of the Seahawks I am not thinking that.)

Yes, there will be talks on the NFL Network about how an upset like that rarely happens and all these upsetting nuggets will come out, but the reality of the situation is: the Seahawks are still 11-1, are still considered a favorite to get to the Super Bowl (because they have the tools to get there) and have a big game against the 49ers this next week.

Now, if I am a Seahawks fan and my teams has a chance to make the playoffs in the final regular season game of the year and is going up against an opponents third stringers (Buffalo Bills fans know where I am going with this) and LOSE! That's one of the worse losses in history.

MM: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: Jared's Seattle analogy means the Seahawks would be an average team, one that may sneak into the playoffs by getting a big break playing against backups.

Syracuse isn't hoping for luck to make the big dance, Syracuse is Big Man on Campus already being fitted for a Prom King crown. And that's why Wednesday's debacle is the worst loss in regular season history and possibly in the history of the program.

Poindexter, for one night, showed up in the gym and took Syracuse's crown, girl and left the Orange to stomp out of the gym and squeal their IRoc tires on the way out of the parking lot.

(Jared's note: I'd go and see this movie. I really would.)

A mediocre at-best Orange squad getting pounded by DePaul is ugly, Syracuse losing to Georgetown -- anytime -- is embarrassing, but getting made the fool by the worst team in the conference, when you're carrying the crown of No. 1 in the land, with the college hoops world watching is inexplicable, indefensible and easily the worst. Period.

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