It's official, at least, for now. The No. 3-ranked Syracuse Orange men's basketball program will be without sophomore center Fab Melo Saturday for their Big East Conference men's basketball game against visiting West Virginia Mountaineers. Fabricio Melo is trying to clear up an unresolved academic issue that happened in the first semester. It's still unclear what the exact issue is.
Melo is at the Carrier Dome, however, in street clothes but will not play and did not warm up with the Orange. For the third straight game, sophomore forward C.J. Fair will start in his place.
Melo (7-foot-0, 244-pounds) currently leads the Big East Conference in blocked shots (3.0 per game) and Syracuse in rebounding (5.7 per game). During the course of Syracuse's school record 20-0 start, Melo was the anchor in the Orange's 2-3 zone defense.
With the loss of Melo, the Orange (21-1, 8-1 Big East) will now turn to Fair, freshman forward Rakeem Christmas, backup center Baye Keita and junior forward James Southerland to be the replacements for Melo.
On Monday, without its starting center, Syracuse earned a solid road victory at the Cincinnati Bearcats, 60-53. Christmas played his best collegiate game tallying nine rebounds, three blocks and added four blocks, while Southerland provided a solid spark off the bench collecting seven rebounds and seven points.
However, in the Orange's first loss of the season Saturday, 67-58, against host Notre Dame, SU really struggled inside as Irish junior forward Jack Cooley tallied 17 points and 10 rebounds. The Orange were also outrebounded 32 to 34.
Last season, Melo, who entered the 2010-11 season as the top-ranked center prospect, a McDonald's All-American, the Big East's Preseason Rookie of the Year honor, struggled and failed to fulfill high expectations after averaging 2.9 ppg and 1.9 rpg. Melo did start in 24 of SU's 32 games, but averaged just 9.9 minutes per game.
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