Commentary

Syracuse will feel Melo's absence

Updated: March 13, 2012, 3:19 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

Jim Boeheim's job in the NCAA tournament just got a little tougher. Word came down from Syracuse that starting center Fab Melo will not play in the tournament due to eligibility issues.

[+] EnlargeFab Melo
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIFab Melo will not play in the NCAA Tournament due to an eligibility issue.

One of Syracuse's two losses this season came at Notre Dame when Melo was not in the lineup. He was an important figure in the Orange 2-3 zone, helping out in the middle. When teams attacked the zone and got the ball in the middle of the gaps and seams, Melo was there as a big body and an effective shot-blocker. His 88 blocked shots were 57 more than the team's second-leading player in that area.

Melo was also very good on the glass, leading the team with almost six rebounds per contest, so his absence will be felt. That puts more pressure on Rakeem Christmas, who will likely log some more minutes in Melo's place. Christmas only averaged around 10 minutes per contest.

The Orange may have to use a smaller lineup at times with Melo out.

This could be a major blow if Syracuse eventually meets up with Vanderbilt in the Sweet 16. The Commodores have a solid big man in Festus Ezeli, who would have had a challenging battle in the paint against Melo.

Boeheim is a veteran who is never fazed by adversity. This will be a challenge for his top-seeded team.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.