Wednesday, March 14, 2012

They didn't ask for it, but the Orange are in a similar position to their experience at this time in 2010, when Arinze Onuaku was unavailable to a top-seeded team in the NCAAs.

Onuaku was injured in Syracuse's Big East Championship quarterfinal against Georgetown and did not play as SU beat Vermont and Gonzaga in Buffalo, before losing to Butler in the Sweet 16 at Salt Lake City.

Fab Melo, who has started every game this season but three in January, will not play for the Orange in the NCAA Tournament due to eligibility issues.

Unlike their only regular season loss Jan. 21, when it looked as though some players were stunned by the absence of Melo's interior presence, this one has been possible to prepare for.

"Right here, we knew this," senior guard Scoop Jardine said. "He missed games early in the season, so this is a little different. We've got to move forward from it. We can't look back on it."

Melo did not practice with the team Tuesday before it left for Pittsburgh, where the Orange (31-2) will meet 16-seed UNC Asheville (24-9) Thursday at 3:00.

"I think the different then was we didn't have as much depth," head coach Jim Boeheim said. "We really were playing seven players that year and it was fine because they had multiple positions."

Then, Rick Jackson, move to center and sixth-man Kris Joseph assumed a large role. This year, freshman Rakeem Christmas and sophomore Baye Keita will likely get more time. Christmas came up large with two points and give rebounds two games ago in a win over Connecticut. Keita has played 10 minutes in a game only once in the past month.

Boeheim hinted other adjustments, even playing Jardine, Brandon Triche and Dion Waiters all at the same time, could be explored. "During the course of the game, I wouldn't rule anything out. That's not a primary thought, but I wouldn't rule it out," he said.

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