SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP/CBSNewYork) — Syracuse sophomore center Fab Melo has been ruled ineligible for the NCAA tournament, another shot in a season full of them for the Orange.
The university announced Tuesday that the 7-foot Brazilian did not travel with the team to Pittsburgh and won't take part in the NCAA tournament due to an eligibility issue. The school did not elaborate.
Melo missed three games earlier this season because of an academic issue.
The New York Times, citing an anonymous source, reported that Melo's absence is related to the first suspension and that the NCAA revisited the case and again ruled him ineligible. The paper also reported that sources from both the NBA and Syracuse claim that Melo will not return to school for his junior year, and will instead declare for the NBA Draft.
It's a big blow for coach Jim Boeheim and his Orange, the top seed in the East, who expected Melo to be a key player in any postseason run. Syracuse (31-2) opens the tournament against 16th-seeded UNC Asheville (24-9), the Big South champion, on Thursday afternoon.
Syracuse is likely to use sophomore Baye Keita and freshman Rakeem Christmas at center in place of Melo, the Big East defensive player of the year.
Melo averaged 7.8 points per game, 5.8 rebounds and had 88 blocks for Syracuse.
UConn head coach Jim Calhoun spoke with WFAN host Mike Francesa earlier today, and the three-time NCAA champion said the loss of Melo is not "catastrophic" for Syracuse.
The news is the latest development in a tumultuous season.
Last week, school officials said the university had more than a year ago self-reported possible violations of its internal drug policy by former members of the team and that the NCAA was investigating. None of the current members of the team were involved.
And the season began with the dismissal of associate head coach Bernie Fine after two former ball boys accused him of sexually molesting them in the 1980s. While charges have yet to be filed against Fine, he was fired in late November. Boeheim and the university also are facing a defamation suit filed by the ball boys — Bobby Davis and stepbrother Mike Lang.
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