Bank Shots: Fab Melo’s suspension is going to cost Syracuse
Tuesday afternoon, I was watching “SportsCenter” with one of my roommates, and my least favorite college basketball analyst, Doug Gottlieb, was blabbering on about something regarding the NCAA Tournament. Just as he was about to make one more soon-to-be-wrong prediction, host John Buccigross interrupted Gottlieb with the breaking news that Syracuse center Fab Melo had been ruled ineligible for the tournament. Gottlieb was literally speechless. He couldn’t close his jaw. I wish every time he came on the air something like this would happen, because it would shut him up. But seriously, the news that Melo would not be available to play for the top-seeded Orange is enormous.
Because of the confidentiality of this type of issue, we don’t know exactly what Melo did to deserve this suspension at the absolute worst time of the season. We can only speculate what he did, but we do know that he killed Syracuse’s chances of winning a national title.
Syracuse earned the East Region’s No. 1 seed and the No. 2 overall seed thanks to a 31-2 record this season. Their only regular season loss came in late January to Notre Dame, when, coincidentally or not, Melo was not in the game. He was ineligible for that game, as well as two others this season, because of academic issues, so clearly this isn’t an isolated incident.
The Orange has been given a tough draw in the East Region, with Ohio State, Florida State and Vanderbilt in their bracket. A lot of people had been talking about Syracuse going out in the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight, and in my bracket, I had them losing in the round of 32 to Kansas State even before this Melo situation. If you haven’t already finished your bracket and submitted it, I would strongly advise you to take a second look at Syracuse advancing to Boston for the East Regional semi-finals.
With Melo out and the Orange now vulnerable in the middle, I present to you two teams that could knock off the East’s top seed. If you want to take my advice and pick Kansas State to advance in their presumed round of 32 matchup, I would be in favor. The Wildcats are nowhere near as good as they’ve been the last couple of seasons, but when they’re playing well, they can beat anyone in the country. Two of Missouri’s four losses this season came to Frank Martin’s squad, and Kansas State is known as a team that is relentless on the offensive glass. With Melo out of the lineup, Syracuse now has a gaping hole in the middle of their patented 2-3 zone. If the Wildcats can get after it on the offensive glass, they have a real shot to knock off the Orange. I particularly find it to be a favorable matchup for Kansas State.
But if you’re not really feeling the Kansas State over Syracuse thing, I understand. You believe that the Orange is capable of at least winning two games and making it to the regional semi-finals. But let me remind you that the last time that Syracuse reached the Sweet 16 was 2009, when they lost to Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners. The Vanderbilt Commodores are a sexy pick to advance to the Elite Eight and maybe even the Final Four in a lot of brackets, with their hot streak carrying over from their run through the SEC Tournament.
The Commodores loom as a potential candidate to greet the Orange in Boston, and if there’s a team that Syracuse doesn’t want to see, I bet it’s Vanderbilt. Few teams shoot the 3-pointer as well as Vandy, and they have some older, experienced players like Jeffrey Taylor and John Jenkins that can get hot at any time. Things are really shaping up badly for Syracuse, and it all comes back to Melo and his suspension.
It’s sad that one player could potentially ruin a whole team’s chances of making a run to a championship, but we have to remember that these are still college kids and they’re going to make mistakes. Some just make bigger mistakes than others.