It was not pretty. It was heart crushing. But ultimately, it was what everyone saw coming.
The Syracuse Orange were defeated by the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Elite Eight and sent packing.
One of the biggest critiques of the game will be the "Fab Melo Question," otherwise known as "We would have won with Fab." Unfortunately for the Orange, if the game had played out similarly in an alternate universe with Melo, Syracuse would still have fallen to Ohio State.
In this game, foul trouble haunted both teams equally, a huge key why Fab's impact would not have been enough to swing the game. Melo plays over-aggressively rather than conservatively, and in the end, he would have been in foul trouble all game long.
Could he have potentially have done damage while Sullinger was out? Yes.
But Fab has never been a scorer for the Orange, rather an intimidating force that keeps teams out of the middle of the zone. With or without Fab, Sullinger would have attacked and Fab would have been on the bench with Rakeem Christmas after foul issues.
Secondly, the Orange struggled mightily due to the lack of impact from their top two sources of scoring: Dion Waiters and Kris Joseph. Joseph was off all night, missing an easy transition layup early that set the tone for his game. Aside from an early charge drawn, he was a non-factor.
Meanwhile, Dion struggled with foul trouble all game, and when he came in, he often made poor decisions with the ball in terms of shooting. Furthermore, he was unable to generate any turnovers to open up the transition game, a huge part of why Waiters changes the game when he enters.
This game is odd to dissect because neither team really played the way they wanted to. Syracuse never got transition opportunities, but due to Sullinger's fouls in the first and strong efforts from Baye Kieta and Christmas, he was not able to dominate the paint at will.
Rather the game came down to how each team played with the foul issues and quick-whistled refs, and Jim Boeheim's team justifiably struggled. Boeheim has always emphasized over-aggressiveness over passiveness in order to make plays, and in a game like this, a more passive Ohio State was able to go to the line more and make more baskets.
That's why Syracuse was destined to lose this game, with or without Fab Melo.
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