Fab Melo: Predicting How Far Syracuse Will Advance Without Center

Dan RenfroCorrespondent IIIMarch 13, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08:  Fab Melo #51 of the Syracuse Orange reacts against the Connecticut Huskies during the quarterfinals of the 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

Syracuse's star center Fab Melo has been ruled ineligible for the NCAA tournament—so how far can the Orange make it without him?

The Orange's official website announced that Melo will not play in the tournament:

Syracuse University sophomore men's basketball center Fab Melo did not travel with the team to Pittsburgh, and will not take part in the NCAA Tournament due to an eligibility issue. Given University policy and federal student privacy laws, no further details can be provided at this time.

That's a huge blow for the Orange.

Melo was averaging 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game on the season. He was an intimidating force in the middle, and he gave Syracuse some much-needed size.

The Orange struggled during Melo's first suspension, losing their first game of the year and squeaking out a win against West Virginia. This time around, the stakes are much higher.

If you haven't done so already, take Syracuse out of your Final Four.

Don't get me wrong; Syracuse is still a a very good team. Their first two games are in Pittsburgh, and they shouldn't have much trouble with any of their matchups.

In the Sweet Sixteen, however, things could get a little tricky.

Wisconsin is the fourth seed, and Bo Ryan's team loves to slow the game down. While Syracuse wants to get up and down the floor, the Badgers seemingly don't want a single fast break.

If Wisconsin can keep the game to half-court sets, Melo's absence in the middle will be felt.

Wisconsin will be an extremely tough opponent, but they might not get past Vanderbilt, the fifth seed in the East.

Without Melo in the middle, Jeffery Taylor will have a field day. He averages 16.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in the SEC. Without Melo, Syracuse will have a tough time stopping him. Additionally, Lance Goulbourne, Vandy's leading rebounder, will be snatching boards left and right against Syracuse's zone.

Regardless of whom they play, Syracuse will have an incredibly tough matchup in the Sweet Sixteen. If the Orange manage to win that game, however, they will most likely face Jared Sullinger's Ohio State Buckeyes.

This promised to be one of the best Elite Eight matchups in this year's bracket, but that won't be the case now. Sullinger is the best big man in the country, and he will be a monster in the middle for Ohio State. Meanwhile, he will free up the outside for the Buckeyes' shooters.

Even without Melo, the Orange shouldn't have any issues reaching the Sweet Sixteen. However, they will have an incredibly tough time making it past that game.

If Syracuse does, then they will probably have to face Ohio State. If so, they will probably get blown out.

Regardless of the matchups, Syracuse will be lucky to make the Elite Eight, and they will not reach the Final Four.