Syracuse's matchup with Boston College Wednesday night did not go as planned. Gone are the school record 25 game winning streak and school record 25-0 start to a season. Not only that, but it was to a Boston College club that had 19 losses on the season entering the game.
Despite that, the loss could be next to meaningless for the Orange. Their season is still in front of them. Still tied atop the ACC regular season standings, a showdown with Virginia next Saturday could determine their fate within the conference. A number one seed in the East bracket of the NCAA Tournament, which features games in Buffalo and New York City, is very much alive and well.
Most would have taken at 25-1 start before the season began. So here it is, with the season and all of their lofty goals still in front of them.
But all of that starts on Saturday against a Duke squad out for revenge. The hype and anticipation surrounding the rematch of the two that played the best regular season game this during the 2013-14 campaign has already reached heightened levels in Durham.
Duke University students have been camping out since before Tuesday as you can see in the picture below (taken by John Garcia Jr. on Wednesday).
The mental ability of the Syracuse Orange, which everyone thought was so strong prior to the loss to the Eagles, will be tested as it hasn't been before this season. But they have a great opportunity to erase the bitter taste of defeat. A road win against one of the best teams in the country would certainly put ‘Cuse Nation at ease.
It won't be easy. Cameron Indoor is one of the toughest places to play in the country. Even a strong performance without a win should still be viewed as an encouraging sign that Syracuse is coming out of their funk.
Two critical road games follow, which could determine where the Orange find themselves come postseason play. Maryland is daunting only because of the proximity to the highly emotional matchup with Duke. The Terps are tough at home and will want a signature win to put on their resume.
Virginia rounds out the three game road trip, which could be the most important game of the stretch.
The good news for Syracuse fans is that if the Orange play to their ability, the could win all three. Conversely, if they perform to the level of their recent outings, all three are losable contests.
Let's not forget how mentally strong this team has been this season. The way they have been able to respond in the most adverse situations. One slipup should not change the confidence in their ability to battle and find ways to win.
"We have a great group of guys on our team," sophomore guard Trevor Cooney said after the loss to Boston College. "Guys that don't like to lose at all. I'm one of those guys. We'll be ready to practice tomorrow and we'll be ready to bring it."
The end of the season schedule is difficult, no doubt. But it is far from time to press the panic button.