The oft-repeated line that defense wins championships might or might not be completely accurate. But in Syracuse's case, stingy defense in the NCAA tournament has allowed the Orange to conquer and advance.

Last year, a Syracuse team that was as challenged on the offensive end as this year's Orange edition, made a run to the Final Four by leaning heavily on its defense.

During last year's regular season through the Big East Tournament, Syracuse opponents shot 38 percent overall and 30 percent from the 3-point line.

But those numbers shifted dramatically during SU's first four games of the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse held opponents to just 29 percent during its run to the Final Four. Those opponents — Montana, California, Indiana and Marquette — managed to make just 15 percent of their 3-point attempts.

"Our offense isn't going to be there every night," Syracuse forward C.J. Fair said on Selection Sunday. "If we play the defense we're capable of playing, I think we can definitely make another Final Four run."

To do that, to compensate for an offense that shoots essentially the same percentage as last year's team, the Orange must rachet up its defensive pressure.

This year's SU team allows opponents to shoot 41 percent overall and 36 percent from 3-point range. In its recent 2-5 slide, opponents are making a significant amount of shots.

In the five losses, Orange opponents are shooting 47 percent overall and 41 percent from the 3-point line. In the two wins, SU opponents are shooting 37 percent overall and 33 percent from the 3-point line.

SU seems capable of sustained defensive stands. The Orange ranks 18th nationally in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defense. SU sits seventh in the ACC in field-goal percentage defense (41 percent).

"Overall, we've played very well on the defensive end. We're one of the best defensive teams in the country," SU coach Jim Boeheim said. "Defense is important all the time. And I think it's especially important in the NCAA tournament."

It proved to be crucial for last year's tournament advancement. And Western Michigan, Syracuse's Thursday opponent, seems like the perfect place to start applying additional pressure.