If you believe the #NARRATIVE we were fed before this season started, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team’s Wednesday night win over the No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes doesn’t even count.
After all, we were “obligated” to play at OSU by way of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge this year. So picking up a nice road upset doesn’t actually count, if you ask one college basketball analyst.
Still, despite how much we deride the typical “Syracuse doesn’t leave New York” stuff, we also don’t play a TON of true road games in non-conference play. It’s not a unique trait for Syracuse — most other programs have the exact same schedule structure. However, it makes the instances for road wins over ranked non-conference opponents all the more rare.
For the Orange, it hasn’t happened since 2008, when an 11th-ranked SU squad won at No. 23 Memphis, 72-65.
Since then, Syracuse has played 10 road non-conference games, and four against ranked foes. They’re 5-5 overall, and 1-3 in the games against ranked teams. Before beating Ohio State on Wednesday, they’d lost to No. 17 Michigan and No. 7 Villanova in 2014, and No. 17 Wisconsin in 2016.
SU was either unranked (2014) or the lower-ranked team (2016) in those matchups above, so a win would’ve been an upset by the numbers, similar to what the OSU win was. The Orange scored the Memphis win in 2008 as the better team by the rankings. So when was the last time Syracuse scored a non-conference road upset, if we’re looking simply at where the teams are in the polls?
The answer there is 1995 against No. 3 Arizona. Syracuse went to Tucson unbeaten and ranked No. 19, then knocked off the Wildcats 79-70. That Arizona team would end up making the Sweet 16. SU, as you may recall, marched all the way to the National Championship Game.
Does this upset over Ohio State mean bigger things to come? We’ll see — though scoring a big win with a healthy Frank Howard at least helps erase the MSG debacle from the NCAA Tournament committee’s considerations. Just know that these sorts of big road wins against ranked non-conference foes don’t happen too often (every 10 years or so), so it may be awhile before the next one.