Non-Syracuse basketball fans probably don't understand what just happened Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden when freshmen center Fab Melo tallied a collegiate-best 12 points, four rebounds and two blocks in the No. 4-seeded Syracuse Orange 79-73 victory over No. 4 St. John's Red Storm. So, let me try and put into more understandable terms.
Fab Melo contributing in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament was like: Charles Barkley shooting a 68 at Augusta National; or actor Billy Crystal hitting a home run in the World Series; or President Barack Obama blowing a fastball by Albert Pujols; or this guy being the lead anchor on Sports Center. It's basically laughable. Downright silly to think about.
I guess, that's why I was laughing almost uncontrollably as Melo, who averaged less than 2.5 points per game entering Thursday's contest, was making play after play to help guide the Orange (26-6) to their six straight win and a semifinal match-up against No. 9 Connecticut Huskies (7 p.m. on ESPN).
My laughter had to do with a couple things: First, I was happy that Melo, who went through so much Jim Boeheim-freshman hazing that the university probably thought about imposing a suspension, was finally doing something he can be proud of. I don't even think Melo understands what just happened.
The second thing was knowing St. John's basketball fans didn't understand what was happening to them. They were Augusta National, the opposing pitcher facing Crystal, Pujols and the Fox Sports Network. For a program that was trying to earn back their squatters rights of MSG, it was Melo who wouldn't let them. The 7-footer from Brazil, who was notorious for being yanked in the game's first three seconds, staked his claim on the World's Most Famous Arena the way a (extremely tall) leprechaun does a pot of gold.
Kudos to Melo and sophomore guard Brandon Triche, who netted 15 of his game-best 22 points in the second half to rally the Orange, who trailed 37-21 at halftime. Onto the semifinals and a date with UConn, which advanced with a buzzer-beating victory over No. 1 Pittsburgh Panthers. Get your premium coffee ready, it could be a long Friday night.