College Basketball: Why You Shouldn't Lose Track of Teams With Early Losses

Mike KlineAnalyst IJanuary 24, 2011

Syracuse may have lost but they certainly shouldn't be forgotten.
Syracuse may have lost but they certainly shouldn't be forgotten.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Ask anyone what the difference is between college football and basketball, and many will tell you a loss in football all but kills championship hopes.

The hoops season being much longer and ending in a tournament helps prevent a loss or ruining a good team's chances.

It is funny, though, how quickly a team can fall off the radar when it suffers a few setbacks even early in the season.

Duke was the preseason No. 1 team in every poll and stayed there until a loss two weeks ago ended its 25-game win streak, which dated back to last season.

Even before that, the Blue Devils were shaky as they tried to adapt to life without star freshman point guard Kyrie Irving, who was lost to injury in early January.

In the next set of polls after Duke's loss, they dropped to No. 5 and No. 4 respectively in the ESPN/USA Today and AP polls. That was to be expected, but the talk about the Blue Devils from analysts and fans alike seemed to center around how the Blue Devils were so vulnerable and how they just didn't seem to be as good.

Some scarcely mentioned them in the talk about who could win the championship. Of course any dialogue about who is going to win the NCAA Tournament in and of itself is a bit premature, especially in January.

A similar thing is bound to happen to the Syracuse Orange, who have dropped their last two games, both against highly ranked opponents.

Prior to the losses, Syracuse was as hot as any team in the country and making a strong case to be in the discussion as the team to beat. Now with two straight losses, it is likely they may even drop out of the Top 10 and the discussion of elite teams.

It is only fair to reassess a team after a loss or two, but to drop them completely is short-sighted and ignoring the fact that the college basketball season is a long one.

And aside from being the No. 16 or No. 15 seeds, there isn't a team in the NCAA Tournament that doesn't have a shot to win it all, even if it is a small chance.

Granted, there are again only a handful of teams that are probably in real contention, but it is hard to justify eliminating a team, especially one as good as Duke or Syracuse, after a loss or two.

Pitt was forgotten about for a bit after it lost its first game early in the season, but now the Panthers are playing as well as any team in the country. 

Should they lose, does that mean with two losses they are eliminated from the discussions?

Another case in point is Michigan State from last season. After they were written off, much like is being done now, Tom Izzo still found a way to get them into the Final Four again.

So while no one is likely to just forget about teams like Duke and Syracuse, treating them as an afterthought because of a loss or two in January isn't a wise thing to do.  Because come March, any of a handful of teams could win it all, and you better believe Duke and Syracuse are still in that handful.