It’s beginning to sound like a broken record–the Syracuse Orange cruise through most of their season, often time looking unbeatable, and then BAM!–they hit a wall, courtesy of an academic ineligibility.
Last year, they found out just prior to a January road game against Notre Dame that center Fab Melo would be unavailable indefinitely thanks to academics back in the fall. The Orange were No. 1 in the country and sitting pretty with an unblemished 20-0 record, including a 7-0 Big East mark. The 7-foot Brazilian had been a key part of Syracuse rattling off 20 straight wins and ascending to the number-one team in college basketball. The Irish beat the Orange, 67-58, but they bounced back with two more wins without the big man before he was reinstated–only to be ruled ineligible just before the NCAA Tournament began. They eventually bowed out in the Elite Eight to Ohio State.
This year, it’s the same story, just a different name–James Southerland. Syracuse once again raced out of the gate to a 15-1 start thanks in large part to the senior Southerland, who was averaging 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game until he was ruled academically ineligible “until further notice.” Since dropping their last two Big East games, both on the road, further notice seems a lot longer away than the Orange had hoped.
He was one of their main three-point threats this season, connecting on 37.5 percent of his attempts and was their second-leading scorer–he’s since been surpassed by smooth-shooting CJ Fair, who thankfully for Coach Jim Boeheim has been equally as effective from beyond the arc.
Southerland’s loss is certainly one worth keeping an eye on if you’re a Syracuse fan. If there is a silver lining, unlike Melo last year, the team has had plenty of time to game-plan without him though they would much rather have him out there.
Freshman Jerami Grant has seen a spike in his minutes as he’s been asked to fill in, with inconsistent results. It’ll be interesting to see if the Cuse can pull it together once the calendar hits March.