Melo did not practice with the team before the departure, giving his teammates more time to be adjusted to his absence than they may have had when the 7-0 sophomore from Brazil was held off the South Bend-Cincinnati trip in January.
Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters still boarded with their customary fist bumps that have been a part of every road trip as the nation’s second-ranked team has gone 12-2 away from the Carrier Dome this year.
Melo averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game this season and was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
Rebounding, which has been issue this year often overcome by Syracuse’s ability to turn opponents over, may be an even more key battleground in this tournament.
The Orange open NCAA play Thursday at 3:10 against Big South champion UNC Asheville, a team that has outrebounded nine of its past 10 opponents, despite not playing a regular taller than 6-5.
A breakdown of this season’s games where Syracuse has been outrebounded by 10 or more:
Game REB Gap Result
12/6 vs. Marshall 13 W, 62-56
1/16 vs. Pittsburgh 12 W, 71-63
1/21 @ Notre Dame 13 L, 56-67
1/28 vs. West Virginia 19 W, 63-61
2/8 vs. Georgetown 17 W, 64-61, OT
2/13 @ Louisville 13 W, 52-51
2/22 vs. South Florida 10 W, 56-48
3/8 BEC Connecticut 12 W, 58-55
- SU is 7-1 this season in games getting outrebounded by 10 or more, 6-0 with Melo, 1-1 without.
- The loss and all but two of those wins came against teams in the tournament.
- The Orange have had a different leading scorer in each of the past five games in which they’ve been badly outrebounded.
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