In the end, if you just look at the score, top seed in the East Syracuse (32-2) beat UNC-Asheville (24-10) by the final of 72 to 65, coming back from a 4 points half time deficit. While a seven point spread isn’t what you would expect, it’s not bad either. However, if you watched the game the Orange struggled in this one, and not just because they were missing Fab Melo in the middle, but because the whole team was out of sync for most of the game. For head coach Jim Boeheim and his squad they were lucky to survive and advance against the Bulldogs as it seemed for a while that the Orange could be the first No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
After this performances many question marks were left for both the team to figure out and the fans to ponder on while waiting for the next round. On offense, where the whole team shot poorly, especially from the outside where SU was 5 for 23 from beyond the arc, and never used their size advantage against UNC-A rarely driving the lane in the first half. On defense, where the team could not put two-three stops in a row until the last couple of minutes of the game and where even if much taller than their opponents only outrebounded them by a pair, 33 to 31. And overall, where a team that has been through so much, that has plenty of talent on its roster, could play so non caring for over 35 minutes, showing no true sense of emergency, and with their two starting seniors, point guard Scoop Jardine and forward Kris Joseph scoring 23 points together on 6 for 18 from the floor and 1 from 9 from trey being part of a eight man rotation that just did not impress for the most part.
Sadly for both teams it seems that what most people, outside the SU fan base, will remember about this game were the couple of calls in the last 90 seconds that the referees had go in Syracuse’s favor. Both could have gone either way and most of all it should be noted that the refs were somewhat iffy for most of the game. Having watched the game I can say that both the lane violations against the Bulldogs, which gave Jardine a re-do on a one and one which he had missed the front end of, and the ball going out of bounds, where it seems Brandon Triche lost it and the refs gave it back to SU, could have gone to UNC-Asheville. But I can also say that this would not mean that Syracuse would have lost the game had the calls gone the other way.
Next up for No. 2 AP & ESPN/USA Today Syracuse will be Kansas State, who took care of Southern Miss earlier in the day, on Saturday. The time has yet to be determined, but one thing is for sure, if the Orange do not get out of the funk they are in this might be the last game for them this season, which would definitely be a shame after the great regular season they have had.