Syracuse may have been the last team added to the NCAA Tournament field, but it made sure Wednesday it was not one of the first out.
The Orange's 60-56 victory over Arizona State in the final First Four game in Dayton, Ohio, was not particularly pretty, but points -- not style points -- are what matter from this time of the season forward
Despite shooting 40.8 percent from the field and missing 10 free throws, Syracuse (21-13) and its iron five advanced to meet sixth-seeded TCU (21-11) in a first-round game of the Midwest Region in Detroit on Friday.
If recent history is any judge, the Orange have some run left in them.
Syracuse made the 2016 Final Four as 10th seed in its most recent tournament appearance before losing to North Carolina, with remarkable freshman Malachi Richardson and senior Michael Gbinije providing the spark.
Another freshman, forward Oshae Brissett, was the key Tuesday, with 23 points and 12 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season. Play was stopped after Brissett took a hard fall late in the first half, but after a timeout he remained in the game.
The Orange trailed 49-42 before finishing on an 18-7 run, although the game was not decided until Shannon Evans II's 3-point attempt in the final five seconds rimmed out and Frank Howard made two free throws. Howard had 12 points.
"Our offense struggles, but I thought our defense has been good all year and that's where we hang our hats, on the defensive end," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
Howard and Tyus Battle (15 points) played all 40 minutes and Brissett played 37, par for the course. Battle entered the game leading NCAA Division I players with an average of 38.5 minutes a game, and Howard was second at 38.3. Brissett was sixth at 38.0.
Syracuse will have 48 hours to recuperate before meeting TCU, which in coach Jamie Dixon's second year made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998.
TCU lost its last two games and finished 8-10 after a 13-1 start that included victories over NCAA teams Nevada, Texas Southern and St. Bonaventure. The Horned Frogs lost twice apiece to Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas Tech in the highly regarded Big 12 conference and were 3-10 against the six other league teams that made the NCAA Tournament.
At the same time, the Horned Frogs have turned things around at this point of the season before. Dixon's first team lost the final five games of the regular season before reaching the finals of the Big 12 Tournament then winning the NIT.
Dixon, like old friend Boeheim from their days as competitors in the Big East and later the ACC, is no stranger to the NCAAs. He made 11 tournament appearances in 13 seasons at Pitt.
"If you compare it to what other people have been able to do, it's obviously ahead of schedule," Dixon told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about the rebuild.
"I think the only way you can get there is to believe. Our plan is to build unrealistic expectations and no one has higher expectations than me."
Vladimir Brodziansky, a 6-11 senior, leads the Horned Frogs with a 15.1 scoring average and 6-7 forward Kenrich Williams is averaging 13.1 points, a team-high 9.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists. He was second-team All-Big 12.
Sophomore Desmond Bane is averaging 12.8 points and freshman forward Kouat Noi is at 10.3.
The Frogs have played the last 13 games without sophomore point guard Jaylen Fisher, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice three days after scoring a career-high 22 points against Oklahoma on Jan. 13, but junior Alex Robinson has averaged 21.1 points and 7.2 assists since Fisher went out, including a career-high 17 assists against Iowa State.
Williams was the most outstanding player in the NIT a year ago, when he had five straight double-doubles and capped that with 25 points and 12 rebounds in an 88-56 blowout of Georgia Tech in the final game.
"We want to go deep (in the NCAAs) and make a run," Williams said in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
"Coming in to TCU, I had this planned out in my head, so to see it happen in real life is a blessing. I think the future for TCU basketball is bright. We're just getting it over the hump and setting it up for the future."