The Syracuse Orange came into today as the underdog for many experts in the national media. The Orange struggled to put away lowly No. 16 UNC Asheville and many would argue they won due to a blown call.
But there are no style points in the NCAA tournament. It's survive and advance while learning and adjusting on the fly. By struggling against UNCA, Syracuse was able to pull away from Kansas State and send a powerful message to the field.
Against UNCA, the Orange lacked the tenacity to attack the rim consistently and swing the ball with confidence to whoever had the best chance to score. That all changed yesterday, as Syracuse just seemed more "on" than it has in weeks.
Led by the dynamic duo from Philly, Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters, the Orange attacked the Wildcats' man-to-man defense with confidence, drawing fouls often. Even more apparent was the rebounding effort Syracuse showed.
Players did not just sit back and watch as the Orange attacked, the entire floor collapsed and players such as James Southerland and Rakeem Christmas used athleticism and positioning to beat Kansas State at its own game.
Another lesson from the UNCA scare was the capitalization of momentum. Against the Bulldogs, the Orange could barely sustain a four point run. In this game against Kansas State, the Orange went on several runs by not speeding up their own game, but not relenting.
Another huge moment in the game was when Syracuse matched Kansas State's opening half run in the second. Kansas State was making easy baskets, but the Orange matched it shot for shot.
The tournament is all about situations like this: win close games and take the lessons to avoid a similar scare. Jim Boeheim is a Hall of Fame coach who is now fourth all-time on the NCAA tournament win list. He knows how to make these adjustments.
If Syracuse keeps surviving, there is no reason to think it can't adapt all the way to New Orleans.