They were bound to lose eventually, and that it happened in South Bend, where there’s a history of win streaks being snapped and No. 1’s being toppled, is not shocking.
What was shocking was the news that center Fab Melo was back in Syracuse, reportedly attending to academic matters.
The big concern is this: If the Orange men continue to be “Fab-u-less” they no longer will be fabulous. If this Melo drama persists well beyond Monday night’s game in Cincinnati, they can kiss good-bye their hopes of a national championship run.
It’s been well-documented that this SU roster was deeper in talent than any other in Jim Boeheim’s 36 seasons at the ‘Cuse. But that doesn’t mean it was so deep that it could afford the loss of its 7-foot center from Brazil. The anchor of the Orange men’s 2-3 zone swatted away and altered a multitude of shots this season, enabling SU to fast-break to a 20-0 record, the best start in school history.
But as we saw in Notre Dame’s 67-58 victory last night, SU can be manhandled inside without Melo. The Orange men were not a great rebounding team with him; without him they are terrible. While Melo clearly isn’t the most talented Orangeman, he just might be the most indispensible.
If he can get his academic house in order and return to the lineup soon, SU will be OK. But if Melo is done for the year, I can’t see Syracuse compensating enough to make a serious run.
Sadly, this is reminiscent of two seasons ago when center Arinze Onuaku went down with a leg injury just before the NCAA tournament. AO’s absence cost SU a shot at a national title. The same sad scenario will unfold here if Fab’s long gone. A special team and a special season will be sabotaged by a big loss.
Still sticking with my early week picks of the Giants and Patriots in today’s conference championship games.
My thanks to the folks at the Lyons Public Library for hosting my talk and booksigning yesterday. The people there were great, welcoming me with a warm embrace. We sold a lot of books and raised several hundred dollars for the library in Jim Boeheim’s home town. Enjoyed myself immensely.