Welp, it had been awhile since the Syracuse Orange basketball program was snake-bitten...
According to a statement from SU Athletics’ spokesman Pete Moore, Frank Howard “will not play in the NCAA Tournament for an indefinite period of time due to a violation of athletic department policy.”
That phrasing is weird, but the sentiment is straight-forward. At a bare minimum, Howard will not suit up against Baylor in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.
UPDATE: The reason, the Daily Orange later learned, was a failed drug test according to sources familiar with the situation.
Howard, notably, scored 28 points vs. Duke in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals after putting up 18 against PItt in the first round. He was named second-team All-ACC Tournament. After a season in which he’d struggled to score consistently, it seemed like he was turning the corner. As we’d mentioned earlier, this March seemed like an opportunity for him to secure his legacy.
But instead, it’s this — the latest in a long line of instances that deal a seemingly crushing blow to Syracuse at the exact worst time. We’d been without them for a while; 2013, 2016 and 2018 went pretty well, and 2014 didn’t feature an injury. But Fab Melo’s ineligibility (2012) and Arinze Onuaku’s injury (2010) are still fresh for a lot of Orange fans. Should SU lose to Baylor or barely drop a game without Howard to Gonzaga, it’ll be another game of “what if” in a long line of them going back decades.
No word if this has anything to do with the alleged tripping incident. The ACC never commented, Zion Williamson never noticed it, and Howard is with the team in Salt Lake City right now. But in any case, Howard’s not playing because of an action on his part, and one that we may never really find out the full story on.
In any case, we can still potentially beat Baylor without Howard, but it does get significantly harder. The prospect of beating Gonzaga without him, however, does become an even longer shot. Not to be a #disloyalidiot, but probably best to adjust your brackets accordingly.