What do other teams think about Syracuse losing Fab Melo?

Fab Melo

It remains the biggest buzz talk heading into what is officially the second round of the NCAA Tournament; Syracuse University will suddenly be playing without their seven-foot center Fab Melo.

Just as Syracuse's locker room still seemed stunned before their NCAA shoot around on Wednesday, UNC-Asheville had just a little more reason to believe in themselves heading into what will still be a tough matchup against the # 1 seeded Orange.

"It was either Q or Jaron had (found out) through Twitter. They were like, Oh, man, Fab Melo, he's not playing," recalls UNC-Asheville guard Chris Stevenson, "At first everybody thought it was a joke. Then our intern, Matt Reynolds, he went behind the scenes and found out more information about it.

"I mean, I really feel bad for Fab Melo because this is like the best proving point for any college basketball player in the world, to get into the NCAA tournament and prove your ranking, prove who you are as a player. I feel bad for him. I believe Syracuse will miss him very much. But, I mean, I think it's Keita who is coming in. He's still 6'9". They'll be okay (smiling)," said Stevenson.

UNC-Asheville head coach Eddie Biedenbach agrees with that, acknowledging that Syracuse is still very deep, even in the paint with Baye Keita and Rakeem Christmas.

"They're very mobile, they're very active," says Coach Biedenbach, "The two guys, Christmas, I'll say his name wrong, Keita. Both those guys are averaging about 10 or 11 minutes a game and are both very effective. Christmas started or played a little bit when Melo was out before."

SU Head Coach Jim Boeheim recalls the three games earlier this season the Orange played without Fab, and maintains that the loss to Notre Dame was for reasons way beyond just missing one single player.

"When we were all alone without Fab," recalls Boeheim, "one of the tougher places to play in the league, at Cincinnati, we beat West Virginia, and we lost at Notre Dame because nine guys played bad. You know, it wasn't because we didn't have Fab. Notre Dame, first of all, played very well. Everybody on our team played a bad game, which has not happened any other time this year."

The Fab Melo buzz talk may simmer down across college basketball as the games begin to be played on Thursday, but there's now doubt how the circumstance may completely change the landscape of the East Region as a whole.

"I think what Fab gave 'em was a more physical presence," says West Virginia Head Coach Bob Huggins, "They still have guys that can block shots. They're just not as physical. They're not as big and strong as what he was."

"Boeheim is a great coach," says Loyola Head Coach Jimmy Pastos, "He's setting everybody up because he has nine players. He still has eight good ones. That's a tough one to lose because he's a 7-footer, great player. It's none of my concern. It's an odd time for that to happen. Fab Melo is a big loss. Can Boeheim still win? Absolutely. He is one of the great coaches."