Fab Melo Out, Syracuse Staggering

MeloWow. I have no facts to add to this very short story, which notes that Syracuse center Fab Melo has been declared ineligible because of an “eligibility issue.” (That would be why you’re ineligible, right?)

You ever notice how when an institution gets toppled, it’s usually in bits and pieces? Very rarely do you see something dramatic, like what happened at Penn State. Instead, it goes slowly, like with ‘Cuse. First there were the Bernie Fine accusations, but then it looked like coach Jim Boeheim had weathered that storm. Then came the Yahoo! Sports piece about the drug tests, and now Melo is gone for the NCAA tournament, essentially ending Syracuse’s national title hopes.

(Yeah, I’m willing to go that extreme on this one. The 7-foot Melo is the team’s top rebounder, and he also blocks 2.9 shots per game. They’ll still be good without him, but they won’t be great, and it’ll take a miracle for a team with a history of close games to get by Florida State or Ohio State and make the Final Four.)

It’s almost like once there’s a tiny infection in the larger body, it’s only a matter of time before everything goes rotten; even things that seem unrelated to the original cause.

So, where does this leave Syracuse? Well, Ken Pomeroy wrote a piece today (before the announcement) saying that this will be the first year a 16-seed upsets a 1-seed. He does admit to saying this most years, but his data shows that UNC-Asheville, which will play Syracuse on Thursday, is the sixth-best 16-seed ever. It remains a long shot, but that’s just the beginning.

In the second round, ‘Cuse may have to face a Kansas State team that snags offensive boards at the seventh-highest rate in the country. Even with Melo, the Orange struggled to keep other teams off the offensive glass (341st out of 345 teams), and it won’t be any easier without him. And if they manage to make the Sweet 16, they’ll likely face Vanderbilt, a great 3-point-shooting team tailor-made for the 2-3 zone, or Wisconsin, a frustrating, slow-paced team with a highly efficient defense likely to stymie Syracuse’s transition game.

A region that was already one of the two toughest in the entire bracket now looks a bit like a minefield. It’s not a great day to wear Orange.

Filed Under: Shane Ryan, Syracuse

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Shane Ryan is a contributing writer for Grantland. His book about the young stars of the PGA Tour will be published by Random House in early 2015.

Archive @ ShaneRyanHere