No. 1 Duke falls at Boston College, latest heralded team to suffer crazy early loss
If it feels like heralded teams have been losing to unheralded teams more often than usual this season, that’s because heralded teams have been losing to unheralded teams more often than usual this season. Here’s the proof: No. 1 Duke lost 89-84 at Boston College on Saturday, at which point Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils became the fourth school ranked in the top 10 of the preseason Associated Press poll to lose to a sub-75 KenPom opponent this season.
It only happened three times all of last season.
But it’s already happened four times this season.
Here are the details:
- Preseason No. 3 Arizona lost to NC State on Nov. 22. NC State was 100th at KenPom at the time and is 78th now.
- Preseason No. 8 Florida lost to Loyola Chicago on Wednesday. Loyola Chicago was 89th at KenPom at the time and is 77th now.
- Preseason No. 4 Kansas lost to Washington on Thursday. Washington was 140th at KenPom at the time and is 113th now.
- Preseason No. 1 Duke lost to Boston College on Saturday. Boston College was 96th at KenPom at the time and is 86th now.
Again, what I just listed — i.e., a preseason top 10-team losing to a sub-75 KenPom team — only happened three times all of last season. But it’s already happened four times this season. And it’s happened three times in the past four days!
So the obvious question is, why? Why do heralded teams keep losing to unheralded teams at an unusual rate? And to that question, I think, there is no simple answer. But injuries and suspensions are probably a decent place to start, if only because three of the four preseason top-10 teams that have taken these crazy losses have not been at full strength. Arizona has been without the injured Rawle Alkins, who was the Wildcats’ third-leading scorer last season. Florida has been without the injured John Egbuno, who started 19 games last season. And Kansas has been without five-star freshman Billy Preston, who is being held out of games while school officials seek a “clearer financial picture” of a vehicle he crashed last month.
So perhaps that’s part of it.
Arizona, Florida and Kansas were ranked in the top 10 in the preseason based on the rosters in place. But not everyone on those rosters has been available. So those teams are not what they should or will be.
The other thing is the 3-point line.
It’s long been described as college basketball’s “great equalizer.” And though I reject the cliche on principle, I don’t disagree with the point. Because the 3-point line played a major role in all four previously discussed upsets. Arizona was 2-of-17 (11.8 percent) from the 3-point line in the loss to NC State. The Wolfpack were 8-of-20 (40 percent). Florida was 2-of-19 (10.5 percent) from the 3-point line in the loss to Loyola Chicago. The Ramblers were 6-of-12 (50.0 percent). Kansas was 5-of-20 (25.0 percent) from the 3-point line in the loss to Washington. The Huskies were 9-of-21 (42.9 percent). And Duke was 8-of-30 (26.7 percent) from the 3-point line in the loss to Boston College. The Eagles were 15-of-26 (57.7 percent).
Bottom line, in each of those games, the favored team was horrendous from beyond the arc while the underdog was significantly better than usual. It created a math problem for the favorites and was arguably, if not obviously, the reason for the surprising results.
Either way, it’s pretty wild.
Yes, upsets happen all the time in this and every other sport. But these kinds of upsets, massive upsets out of nowhere involving teams with realistic national-championship aspirations and others ranked outside of the top 75 at KenPom, do not happen all the time. This is abnormal. What it suggests is that basically everybody is on upset alert. And what it means is that, absolutely, somebody other than Duke will be No. 1 when the Associated Press poll updates Monday.