Syracuse University's chances for a Final Four or possible NCAA Championship took a major hit Tuesday when 7-foot center Fab Melo was ruled academically ineligible for the tournament.
Melo, who was named the Big East Defensive player of the year in 2011-2012, missed 3 games earlier this year due to issues with his grades.
Melo had returned to the court for Syracuse for his sophomore season as a changed person physically, losing more than 30 pounds and increasing his skills around the basket.
Melo became a force on the inside of the Syracuse 2-3 zone defense, forcing teams to adjust their offensive plans because of his ability to block shots.
Because of Melo's academic issues and his skills on the court, the likelihood of his declaring for the NBA draft this spring increases greatly. Most experts had him as a first round draft pick if he decided to go pro.
The Orange meet UNC Asheville on Thursday in the opening game. Baye Moussa Keita is expected to get some of the playing time in the middle in place of Melo, along with freshman Rakeem Christmas.