By Matt Norlander
It really slaps you when you frame it like this: On Wednesday night Syracuse lost for the first time since last year's Final Four. And prior to Wednesday night, Syracuse's only losses in the past 348 days came to the two teams who played in the 2013 national title game.
Think about how long that is. Think about how incredible that is.
Think about how much more stupefying it makes what played out in the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night.
And, please, don't blame the shorts.
The stunning 62-59 overtime final in favor of the 7-19 Boston College Eagles provided the latest example of how sports are forever waggish in the way they work. Syracuse wasn't supposed to lose here. Not in the middle of the week during an afterthought of a game against a disappointment-incarnated Boston College team.
No, Syracuse was going to fall at Duke on Saturday. If not there and then, surrounded by the sweaty planks of Cameron Indoor, then at Virginia a week later.
But not to Boston College. No way. We're talking about a B.C. team that was 6-19 when it walked into the Carrier Dome. It had beaten only one Division I team -- Virginia Tech, twice -- since Thanksgiving.
"No one goes undefeated," Syracuse star senior forward C.J. Fair said following the loss.
He's right. Not even the final flawless team standing in the sport, Wichita State. At some point, the Shockers will lose. Plenty (oddly) are rooting for it.
For Syracuse, things get kind of treacherous going forward. Four of the team's final five games in the regular season are away from the Dome, including that rematch with Duke this weekend. Virginia now has command of the ACC and could wind up stealing the conference crown from Syracuse if it holds on when the Orange come to town on March 1.
Ultimately, the fun and fury of sports is that we get these moments, games or outcomes that turn into events when we never expect it. As much as some would like to tell themselves otherwise, truth is, we're never immune to earnest shock, and that's part of why sports fans keep coming back. For all the noise, the blathering conversation and predictable storylines that fill up so much of what surrounds the games, it's things like B.C.'s forehead-smacking upset over Syracuse that keep us forever on our toes while chewing our words.
Because no one outside of Boston College's locker room had the Eagles winning to get a seventh victory. Not on the road, not against Syracuse, the previously unbeaten and top-ranked team in the country. I keep writing those words and that outcome in a different order because it's still weird to accept as fact. This was an upset for the ages, one that will never be forgotten in Boston.
Thing about B.C. is, it was considered the most underachieving team in the country, and by winning this game it unfortunately only reinforces such a judgment. This was supposed to be a team contending for an NCAA tournament bid, a team thought to be top-half-good in the ACC this season. It's been anything but in a year that has seen Steve Donahue's job security disintegrate.
Then Donahue's guys not only go out and get the win, but do it in overtime, when momentum and natural order normally fall in favor of the home team. In overcoming the odds, the 14-point-underdog Eagles, according to one metric, provided the most unlikely win of the season.
"We've seen all the highlights and we were kind of saying, they're almost bound to lose a game," Eagles forward Ryan Anderson told reporters afterward. "Luck can only go your way so many times. And tonight, it just went our way. It doesn't knock them as a team. Just tonight, we got the better of them. "
I mean, when you're the first team with a record under .500 to go and beat the top team in the country on the road -- SINCE OH MY GOD 1955 -- it's reason to scream from the rooftops.
Scream they did -- or "roared," rather, according to the reports. The locker-room celebration was audible and means of appreciation and therapy for a team that has been through emotional hell over the past six days. Before the roars there were tears. If you saw the game, you saw the team donning "DK" patches.
DK stands for Dick Kelley, and Boston College played, and won, for him on Wednesday night.
They'll play for him the rest of the season. These Eagles will play for him until every last player and coach on this team is no longer affiliated with the school, and then even after that, the Eagles will still play for Kelley.
Kelley was the longtime sports information director at B.C., his alma mater, and last week he lost his life to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The players and coaches attended Kelley's wake on Monday -- which was moved up to accommodate their ability to pay their respects. Many sobbed their eyes into redness, then had to leave for Syracuse on Tuesday. The team is still grieving, even amid the thrill of such a win. Emotion can make people do things and react in ways they couldn't possibly anticipate.
Less than 48 hours removed from saying goodbye to one of the most gracious men they ever knew, Boston College's coaches and players are on top of the college basketball world. Even though this team won't be going to the NCAA tournament this year, there probably won't be many more -- if any more -- emotional and meaningful wins any squad will capture this season.
And it's a damn ironic tragedy that Kelley, who was long considered one of the nicest men in his profession, was not alive to see it. He would have loved this. He was an infectiously kind and positive person who lived for the charge and uncertainty that sports possess.
Afterward, Donahue kept it simple and let it be known.
That was for you DK.— Steve Donahue (@Coach_Donahue) February 20, 2014
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Matt Norlander is a contributor to Sports on Earth and a writer at CBSSports.com. He lives in Connecticut and is equal parts obsessed with sports and music. Follow him on Twitter: @MattNorlander.