Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Syracuse Will Hurt In Fab Melo's Absence


For what we know -- officially, openly, indisputably, is that he can only sit and watch and miss out on all the madness. There's not much Fab Melo, the shot-blocking sophomore, can do actively to facilitate and help No. 1 Syracuse in the NCAA tournament.

And so, suddenly, upon hearing the latest news, Melo will not play in the tournament due to eligibility issues, a non-factor at the worst possible time. It's been a season of adversity and ignominy for the Syracuse men's basketball team -- longtime assistant coach Bernie Fine was fired after former two ball boys accused him of sexually abuse. And just recently, Yahoo Sports! learned that at least 10 players failed a banned substance test.

With that in mind, Melo's absence will be felt and, because he won't be taking part in activity of the most unpredictable tournament, bracketologist and casual fans should be skeptical about penciling Syracuse in the Final Four on brackets. Besides, the real fun of Syracuse was watching Melo, who not only had a flashy name but the intangibles of size and incredible wingspan. It would be an upset, not to mention an absolute failure, if Syracuse can't make it to New Orleans. But without the 7-foot Brazilian, logic is, the Orange can't survive, can't easily thrash their opposition and can't perform at best.

Projected to at least qualify for the national title to some, now it appears Syracuse is in serious trouble, as the status remains unknown on whether they can play effectively minus the services of Melo. The spate of distractions from a star player's ineligibility looks painfully bad for a basketball program striving in bringing home the gold trophy and cutting down the nets in New Orleans, but the Orange has depth and tremendous talent with sustainably the best sixth-man in the nation, Dion Waiters. He is a legitimate guard, an athletic sophomore coming off the bench after he was almost released from the team, blooming into a star in his role as a reserve. There are plenty of weapons, from senior point guard Scoop Jardine to Kris Joseph, who leads Syracuse in scoring, piling on 13.8 points and collecting merely five rebounds and has abundantly stolen the ball with his quick hands, tied for the team's second most steals with Jardine.

If Syracuse wants a chance to compete, by all means, it will take contributions from all of them, specifically without Melo having an impact at a time when his presence will deeply be missed. In what will probably be the toughest, stiffest run for Syracuse in the upcoming weeks, beginning with North Carolina-Asheville on Thursday afternoon, it's now conceivably to envision a No. 16 seed having the better chance of becoming the first to defeat a No. 1 seed. It wouldn't be so surprising -- trust me -- if UNC Asheville startled our consciousness and extremely annihilated our brackets as giant killers in the tourney after the greatest upset in NCAA history.

Now, imagine if this were to happen?

If this game becomes an instant classic, replays of the biggest upset will forever reappear on ESPN Classic to remember a fantastic contest of thrills and shocking outcomes. It's not the first time Melo was declared ineligible by the school. The last time he was disqualified by the school was for academic issues, and now comes Melo's second suspension. Worse of all, after penalizing its best player for an unspecific purpose, the NCAA could impose a sanction against the program if the seven-footer was mistakenly cleared to return after the first punishment. His earlier suspension proved costly, he was the missing domino effect and Syracuse -- believe it or not -- diminished in areas of offense, and although you are optimistic the Orange can definitely win without Melo, there is a possibility they might be an early ouster.

It essentially, whether a person buys into it or not, ends Syracuse's national title hopes, putting a scare on the hearts of Syracuse faithful -- starving for a championship and much happiness with all the adversity giving the university a bad name. Through it all, Syracuse has come together as a unified team and immensely overcame adversity, enough to amass a 31-2 record and claim a No. 1 seed, but will have to play without Melo after the announcement that one of the tallest starting centers is ineligible. All season, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has dealt with off-court distractions on numerous occasions, but it has not caused the Orange to teeter and break down fundamentally.

Melo's absence would be enough, even though he had a disappointing freshman season, to demolish the basketball season, wastefully ending a run of achievements and dreams by missing a key component. It's necessarily a problem without Melo, who was named Big East defensive player of the year, especially if he averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game in which he dominated perfectly in Boeheim's acclaimed 2-3-zone defense.

Upset, anyone?

The school is deprived of their superstar in essence of a severe punishment, but in likelihood they could be upset bait. Then again, perhaps this traditionally may be the year we see 'Cuse basketball. It's not believable at this very moment, though.