Commentary

Short-handed Syracuse survives

Updated: March 15, 2012, 10:36 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

Syracuse has enjoyed a very good season. One key reason is the ability to win the close calls.

Think back to the win at home against West Virginia. Look at the battle at Louisville. Check out a pair of tight games against Connecticut. The Orange have been able to get to the winner's circle even when playing below their best.

Thursday in Pittsburgh, Jim Boeheim's team was tested by a hungry team from Asheville. Eddie Biedenbach's team played hard, and there were a couple of tough calls that went against his team down the stretch.

The bottom line was simple ... survive and advance.

I am sure Boeheim is concerned that Kris Joseph has struggled shooting the ball in recent games. C.J. Fair also struggled, shooting one-for-seven from the field Thursday.

Was the suspension of center Fab Melo a factor in this contest? Yes, it affected the zone, lacking the presence of the big man in the middle.

The Orange leadership of Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche would not allow the team to suffer an L. Triche had a driving basket which turned into a three-point play late. Jardine, a 49 percent foul shooter, converted in the clutch.

Now Syracuse has to face a tough Kansas State team. The Wildcats got past Southern Mississippi thanks to 30 big points from Rodney McGruder. A unsung star, McGruder hit 11-of-16 from the field against Larry Eustachy's team.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.