Fab Melo Out of NCAA Tournament: How Far Can Orange Go Without Their Center

Andrew SilversheinContributor IIIMarch 13, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08:  Fab Melo #51 of the Syracuse Orange looks on against the Connecticut Huskies during their quarterfinal game of the 2012 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

As you might have heard, Syracuse's Fab Melo has been ruled ineligible for the 2012 NCAA tournament.

The sophomore center was much improved for the Orange in 2011-2012, averaging career highs in points (7.8), rebounds (5.8) and blocks (2.9). However, he did have a few off-court issues, specifically pertaining to his eligibility.

Many are now asking, how will this affect Syracuse's chances in the NCAA tournament? The answer: dramatically.

Syracuse has been one of the best teams in the country all season long, but if there is a glaring flaw with the Orange, it revolves around their sub-par rebounding.

Sub-par is actually putting it nicely. Syracuse ranked 341 out of 345 Division 1 teams in defensive rebounding. That's not bad; it's miserable.

Now take into account that 'Cuse just lost its leading rebounder and defensive force for March Madness. Needless to say, I think a lot of people will be making some changes to their brackets.

Syracuse's defense is hurt tremendously by the loss of Melo. He is the anchor in the paint, and without his presence, an opponent's game plan will change significantly. Syracuse's deadly 2-3 zone is simply not the same without the seven footer in the middle.

Before this injury, I had Syracuse going down to No. 8 Kansas State, and now this is looking even more likely. K State out-rebounds their opponents by nearly five per game, and they will have a field day against Syracuse's Melo-less squad.

The Orange still have enough fire power to get past UNC Ashville, and I do not think that they will become the first No. 1 seed to get taken down by a No. 16. But don't be surprised if they get knocked out in the second round by Kansas State.

It has already been an unfortunate year for Jim Boeheim, and it doesn't look like it is getting any easier.