If you're a Syracuse Orange fan, it's been a heady couple days. And this is about the eighth instance this season that you've had a heady couple days.
We're still under the guise that Fab Melo is out for academic issues, though it remains unclear if it's the same issue that put him on the bench the first time. SU's official statement is that he's out for "eligibility issues," which opens all kinds of possibilities that we dare not think about.
The reactions to the Melo news keep coming in and most of them aren't too flattering (especially from Purdue fans). Seems like most folks now have the Orange out of the tournament by the Sweet Sixteen, courtesy of Vanderbilt (who apparently has a double-bye in the NCAA Tournament). Some even have us gone by the second round via Kansas State (who has a single bye, apparently).
When pressed, the one person who seemed to feel as though Syracuse still has a shot is, oddly, Doug Gottlieb:
(When asked if SU can still make the Final Four without Melo) If they press. I've said it all year, I think they play the wrong way. They still have great depth, and they have some young talent. Rakeem Christmas inside, he's not Fab Melo, he's not ready yet, but you can hide that. You can hide the fact that you really don't have an offensive presence inside if you press all game. It's not like they don't have depth. ... If I'm Jim Boeheim, I start playing more 94-foot basketball. I think they could still make a run.
You know who else is still a fan? Bob Knight, that's who.
I really think the absolute backbone to the team is (Kris) Joseph, so as long as he is still playing, they've got a chance. I think coach Boeheim will make some adjustments. The thing that's most important is, and I'm sure this is how he'll go about it -- hey, we've got 12 guys on our roster, all of whom can play at this level, and so we lose one, well now we've got 11 guys on this roster who can play. ... I think they'll feel pretty good about their chances."
Knight then went on to diagram the 2-3 zone on a blackboard to no one in particular.
Brent Axe thinks a lot of things have to happen for the Orange, but one of them is that James Southerland has to become more of a factor:
He isn't an X-Factor anymore. He is now simply a factor.
Southerland will get extended minutes and he has to make them count. His shooting touch will be needed, but it is more important that he help out Christmas and Keita inside and rebound. Boeheim was riding him towards the end of the season on that front as it was. Now, it becomes critical. Southerland also has to try and bring back some sort of presence to the zone defense with his size (as in length, not girth) that is missing without Fab Melo.
Bud Poliquin was able to get some quotes out of DOC Gross, who said a lot but said nothing (understandably).
"I hope you will understand that there is not much more that I can add at this point," Gross texted. "I also hope the community will understand that there are rules and privacy laws that must be adhered to, and at end of the day one of our responsibilities is to protect the student-athlete’s privacy as the university does for every student.
"We do understand the disappointment of our community and fans. But also we know this team is resilient and will continue to play hard throughout the Tournament. I hope our Orange family will continue to support the team in the days ahead."
And now that we've all had a chance to vent and drop Syracuse in our brackets, it's officially time to move forward. If Fab's out, Fab's out. We'll just have to make due with a Big East First-Teamer, Big East Sixth Man of the Year, two senior leaders and the No. 2 team in the nation.