Commentary

Syracuse stepping up sans Melo

Updated: March 23, 2012, 10:37 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

The story for the Syracuse Orange this season has been simple ... find a way to win.

Whether it was the first game in the tourney against UNC Asheville, or a game against West Virginia up in Syracuse, or against Connecticut in Storrs, or versus the Huskies in the Big East tournament, or against Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center, Syracuse has been pushed but found ways to get to the winner's circle.

[+] EnlargeSyracuse's Scoop Jardine
Photo by Elsa/Getty ImagesScoop Jardine had 14 points and 4 assists as Syracuse slipped by Wisconsin to reach the Elite Eight.

The same was the case on Thursday night in Boston against a tough Wisconsin team. The Badgers did the things needed to be right there at the end of the game. Wisconsin hit 14-of-27 trifectas, but Jordan Taylor came up short on the last three-point try as Syracuse hung on for a 64-63 win.

There were people questioning the Orange when Fab Melo was declared ineligible for the NCAA tournament. Coach Jim Boeheim knew his team has enough talent to win without the big man in the middle.

One player who stepped up after a slow start in the tournament was C.J. Fair. After making just one-of-10 from the floor in the first two games, he hit seven-of-nine against the Badgers, finishing with 15 points. Dion Waiters provided a spark off the bench, as he has so often this season; he had a big 13 points.

Veterans Scoop Jardine (14) and Brandon Triche (11) also came through. Depth is a big positive for the Orange.

Finding a way to win is what it is all about at this time of season. As Jimmy Valvano used to say, "survive and advance."

The last time Syracuse won the national championship, the early rounds went through Boston. The Sweet 16 win on Thursday was also in Beantown. Hmm.

Give Wisconsin credit for a great tournament run. Bo Ryan always gets the most out of his players. Unfortunately, his Badgers fell one point short.

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.