In a shocking development today, Syracuse center Fab Melo has been ruled ineligible for the NCAA Tournament.
There are not many details available about what led to Melo's ineligibility and there has yet to be an elaborate explanation from coach Jim Boeheim or the school's Athletic Director. It is likely that the issue has to do with academics, similar to an earlier three-game suspension this season in which Melo did not play. Syracuse suffered their first and only loss of the regular season while Melo was ineligible.
This is not the first obstacle that the Orange had to overcome this season, but it could the the most significant coming into the NCAA Tournament. Between the Bernie Fine scandal, Jim Boeheim's controversial statements about the scandal, and now Melo's ineligibility, Syracuse has faced much adversity leading up to Thursdays start of March Madness. The hurdles the Orange has faced are highlighted in this slideshow.
This past November, a number of former Syracuse ball boys claimed that they had been molested by assistant coach Bernie Fine over a period spanning two decades from the 1970s to the 1990s. This chaos occurred while Syracuse was undefeated during the early parts of the season, yet it did not derail the Orange on the court.
Fine was fired in late November after a conversation between his wife and one of the former ball boys was released to the public, which further validated the boys' claims. Bernie Fine ended up having all charges dropped however, as the state's statute of limitations kept charges from being filed against him.
Syracuse remained undefeated until January 21, when they lost to Notre Dame largely due to the next hurdle they encountered.
Fab Melo missed three games for Syracuse in late January, and the Orange sorely missed him in its first game without him against Notre Dame.
Notre Dame took down the previously undefeated Orange by a score of 67-58, and Jack Cooley led the way for the Fighting Irish with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Syracuse needed it's defensive anchor in a tough road game, and without him, the Orange ended up suffering their first loss of the year.
In the next two games without Melo, Syracuse struggled against Cincinnati but squeaked out a win. In the next game, Syracuse escaped with a victory against West Virginia. It's clear that he plays a huge role in 'Cuse's success.
Earlier this month, a situation arose in which sources claimed that at least ten Syracuse players since 2001 had tested positive for "banned recreational substances."
Not many details have been released regarding this situation, but it appears that it does not pertain to any current team members. Whether or not this will have an effect on Jim Boeheim and his future at Syracuse, however, remains unknown.
Obviously, this was some bad press that no premier college basketball program wants in the background of their amazing season.
Earlier today, Fab Melo was ruled ineligible for the NCAA tournament. We have already seen how his absence affects Syracuse (hint: it's not in a good way), and the lack of his presence on the interior could prove to be detrimental to Syracuse's Final Four aspirations.
With bigs like Festus Ezeli, Keith Wright, Yancy Gates, Bernard James, Robert Sacre, Kevin Jones and Jared Sullinger in Syracuse's region, the Orange have to be worried.
Even their potential Third Round match-up vs. No. 8 seed Kansas State or No. 9 seed Southern Mississippi could be the end of the line for the Orange without their defensive MVP.
Will Syracuse get to the Final Four without Melo? We'll know in a short time, but the prospects look worse now than they did just a few hours ago.