As the No. 7 Syracuse Orange prepare for the heart of Big East play, they'll have to do so without the services of small forward James Southerland.
Syracuse suspended Southerland indefinitely Saturday prior to its game against Villanova, citing issues with eligibility as the culprit.
Daily Orange Sports had the report on Twitter:
SU forward James Southerland will not play until further notice due to an eligibility matter, according to SU Athletics release.— Daily Orange Sports (@DOsports) January 12, 2013
This is a big blow to the Orange (15-1, 3-0 Big East), who are preparing for the toughest part of their schedule to date in the next three games. After facing Villanova on Saturday, they will have to gear up for No. 3 Louisville and No. 21 Cincinnati, with a matchup against No. 17 Notre Dame not far off.
Southerland, the senior from Bayside, N.Y., is having his best year under head coach Jim Boeheim. He's the team's second-leading scorer at 13.6 points per game while shooting close to 50 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from the three-point line.
Also grabbing 5.2 rebounds per game, Southerland has had to take a bigger role since the departure of Kris Joseph to the NBA, and he's responded well. Like leading scorer and teammate Brandon Triche, Southerland has played in all of the last four seasons for the Orange, but this season he has stepped up his game to help guide a younger squad.
With Southerland on the bench for the foreseeable future, C.J. Fair and Rakeem Christmas will have to help pick up some of his scoring slack, as will the Orange bench.
We don't know what kind of eligibility issue (grades, credits) that Southerland is facing, but we'll make sure to update his status when more information emerges from this story.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.