Syracuse Stunned by Boston College: Who's College Basketball's No. 1 Team Now?

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystFebruary 19, 2014

Kevin Rivoli/AP Images

Following Syracuse's 62-59 loss to Boston College on Wednesday night, there will be a new No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 next Monday.

Now we just need to figure out who that team should be.

Not many people actually expected Syracuse to finish the season undefeated, but certainly no one thought the Orange would lose at home to Boston College.

Syracuse was a 13.5-point favorite according to Odds Shark. (subscription required) gave Syracuse a 96 percent chance of winning, with an expected score of 77-58. But in the end, it was Boston College who shocked the world.

Even if it wasn't Syracuse's first loss of the season, this outcome would have been an absolute stunner. Boston College entered the game with a 5-19 record against Division I opposition. The Eagles had just one win all season against a team in the RPI Top 220 and only three wins since the end of November.

There are no gimmes in major conference play, but this was about as close as it gets.

KEVIN RIVOLI/Associated Press

But considering the way Syracuse had been eking out wins as of late, perhaps it wasn't so surprising after all.

Aside from a somewhat-convincing 13-point win over Clemson, Syracuse had yet to win a game in the month of February by more than six points. And last time I checked, February is nearly over.

The Orange trailed in the final 10 seconds of recent wins over Pittsburgh and North Carolina State. They were playing with fire and finally got burned.

No coach in his right mind would ever admit it, but Jim Boeheim might actually be a little relieved that they suffered the loss.

It's hard enough to be a first-place team in a power conference and knowing that you're getting the opposition's best shot on a nightly basis. Just look at how much trouble Florida and Saint Louis had on Wednesday night with Auburn and George Mason, respectively. All other things being equal, those should have been easy wins for the ranked teams, but they were anything but cakewalks.

Add in the allure of being able to put an end to an undefeated season, and Syracuse has been getting at least 110 percent effort from every opponent for the past month.

Boston College head coach Steve Donahue told ESPN's LaPhonso Ellis in the postgame interview, "Obviously a huge win. We're trying to build a program here. Recruiting is huge, and kids look at this as a chance to say, 'You know what? I could go there.'"

Now that C.J. Fair and company can just worry about winning games instead of making history, it shouldn't be long before they're able to rediscover the mojo that kept them undefeated as long as it did.

Truth be told, they still did what they do best on Wednesday night. They blocked shots, forced turnovers and kept it a low-scoring game. They even had one of their patented runs, outscoring Boston College 12-0 during a five-minute stretch that included halftime.

They just couldn't shoot down the stretch. After taking a 37-26 lead with 12:57 remaining, they closed out regulation making just three of 15 field-goal attempts while Boston College did its best Stephen Curry impression from behind the arc.

That's the sign of tired legs—bodies that were just worn down from the weight of the world being placed on their shoulders over the past month.

I don't know if they'll be able to bounce back in time to even play a close game at Cameron Indoor on Saturday, but the Orange will be OK in the long run.

For now, though, who is the best team in the country?

On Sunday night, 64 out of the 65 AP voters felt that it was Syracuse. Perhaps some will still feel that way, but it's quite unconventional for the No. 1 team to lose a game and still remain at No. 1.

Does Florida deserve to take the throne? The Gators' near-loss at home to Auburn was almost as inexcusable as Syracuse's actual loss at home to Boston College.

What about the only remaining undefeated team? While other teams were struggling to survive on Wednesday night, Wichita State went on the road and beat Loyola (IL) by double digits to improve to 28-0.

Would Duke have a shot at No. 1 if it beat both North Carolina and Syracuse in the next couple of days? The Blue Devils have won seven of their last nine games by at least 15 points, and they have arguably been the hottest team in the country over the past five weeks.

Clearly, the smart money is on Florida—unless it loses at Ole Miss on Saturday—but just like last season at this time, there are a good number of options. On Feb. 18, 2013, the Coaches Poll gave multiple first-place votes to Indiana, Miami, Gonzaga and Florida.

After 12 consecutive weeks with the AP giving at least 92 percent of the first-place votes to one team, we might finally be headed for a Monday with a bit of indecision.


Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.