Jardine believes Syracuse can win the NCAA Championship without Melo

Syracuse University menâ??s basketball team is in Pittsburgh for the second round of the NCAA Tournament where they are slated to play 16-seed UNC-Asheville tomorrow at 3:15pm.

Syracuse seniors Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine both spoke along with head coach Jim Boeheim at Wednesdayâ??s press conference.

Questions focused primarily on how the team will play without sophomore center Fab Melo. Joseph, Jardine and Boeheim all say they think the Orange will play fine without Melo.

"We still believe in ourselves and believe we can win the championship without Fab," says Jardine.

The first practice the Orange had without Melo was Wednesday morning. Melo practiced with the team right up until they left for Pittsburgh.

Joseph says the team learned Melo could not play from watching ESPN and Boeheim said he first heard that Melo would not play in the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday.

According to Syracuse University Athletics, Fab Melo "will not take part in the NCAA Tournament due to an eligibility issue."

"I have not seen a bigger improvement from a player that I've ever coached in one year and a guy who I respect a lot who works as hard as he can work everyday and who I think is a great kid," said Boeheim about Melo. "I feel bad for him. I feel bad for the rest of the players on the team.''

Scoop says that with Rakeem Christmas and C.J. Fair, the team will play fine. "Weâ??ve done it before, weâ??ll be ready," said Joseph.

Jardine and Joseph both say they have a lot of confidence in Chrismas and Baye Moussa Keita. "I know heâ??s (Christmas) going to step up to the plate," said Jardine.

Earlier this season, Melo missed three games due to an an academic issue. While Melo was off the court, Syracuse was 2-1, losing their first game of the season to Notre Dame on January 21.

Jardine says the team has dealt with playing without Melo before and he said, "We had a feeling that it might come back."

Boeheim says the team didnâ??t lose to Notre Dame in January because Melo wasnâ??t on the court, but because, "we had 9 guys who played bad."

When asked about retroactive consequences of Melo leaving, returning to play, then leaving again, coach Boeheim only said, "Weâ??ll see what happens."

Boeheim says the team has been talked to about using judgment when talking to the media or using social media. He says the players are encouraged to be positive, but that there are no formal rules in place.

"We donâ??t restrict them on social media," says Boeheim. He says social media and responsibility are things players and college students have to figure out for themselves.

Boeheim refused to comment on the other challenges the team faced earlier in the season but joked that he might write a book about it someday. Boeheim laughed as he said, "I canâ??t catch a break this year."

Boeheim says the team didnâ??t play well in the Big East, and the team knew it. He says the reason the Orange have won so many games this season is because of Jardine and Joseph.

When asked about the UNC Asheville Bulldogs, Boeheim says he is shocked that the Bulldogs were only a 16-seed. He thinks they "are a really good basketball team."

Many fans expect that Fab Melo will leave Syracuse and head to the NBA draft. currently lists him as the 20th pick in the first round. predicts he will be the second pick in the second round. While Melo is still considered a raw talent by most scouts, his shot blocking ability, height and wingspan have generated a lot of interest among NBA teams.

CNY Central's John Evenson and Alex Dunbar are in Pittsburgh with the Orange. Follow @CNYEvenson and @AlexDunbarNews for the latest on the Orange.