Key Defense Player Lost by Top Seeded Orange
Syracuse revealed on Tuesday that center Fab Melo would no longer be playing in the NCAA tournament, reducing the chances of the top-seeded Orange to play for the national title.
A short news release was issued by the university describing Melo’s non-participation as caused by an eligibility concern. Further comment was declined, and Coach Jim Boeheim also did not respond to a message sent to his cellphone.
An individual who was involved with the university claimed, on the condition of anonymity, that the issue was related to the earlier academic problems that Melo underwent, which apparently resulted in his missing three games this season.
The Orange enjoyed 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds by Melo, although his most important role was that of an anchor at the bottom of the 2-3 zone of Syracuse. He had an average of 2.93 blocks, which ranked him 12th across the country, an amazing figure considering how he only averaged 25.4 minutes.
This season, without Melo, the Orange played in a way that could be described only as poor and sloppy, suffering a defeat at Notre Dame and barely managing a narrow win versus West Virginia and Cincinnati. In fact, even with the 7-foot player in their lineup, Syracuse’s weakness of rebounding was glaringly obvious.
West Virginia assistant Billy Hahn remarked that the difference was being able to take the ball closer to the rim a bit more frequently. Since Melo would not be there to block shots, his players could try to score more at the rim.
Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita, the freshman and the sophomore, respectively, are tasked with replacing Melo.
Syracuse, at top seed spot in the East Region, will open the NCAA tournament with a game against North Carolina-Asheville on Tuesday, set in Pittsburgh.
Hahn added that the greatest advantage for the opponents of Orange, if Orange managed to beat U.N.C.-Asheville as fans expected and wound up facing up to Southern Mississippi and Number 8 Kansas State, would be the mental advantage more than anything else: opponents would have the chance to tell themselves that Syracuse was not as good without Melo.
Hahn believes Melo’s absence would definitely be a major difference, saying that the team just is not as good without him.
Fans speculate about this being the end of Melo’s career at Syracuse, especially since NBA-involved people as well as those at Syracuse have mentioned his plans of declaring for the NBA draft following this season. Although Melo is a sophomore, by the time of the NBA draft in June, he will have turned 22 years old.
While Melo is not a guaranteed pick for first round, there is a big chance that some teams in the NBA will be interested in the 7-foot, 275-pound player. Should he fail to be drafted to the NBA, Melo has the option of returning to play professionally in his native Brazil.
The news of Melo’s loss keeps true to the dichotomous season for Syracuse, having played the best regular season in the history of the program at 31-2, while also dealing with an onslaught of issues off-court.