Redo your bracket: Syracuse star center Fab Melo was ruled ineligible for the NCAA tournament, dealing a crippling blow to one of the tourney’s top seeded teams.
The seven-footer, who averaged nearly 8 points and 6 rebounds per game and was named the Big East defensive player of the year, is a key part of the Orangemen vaunted zone defense. The 31-2 squad is slated to take on UNC-Asheville in the tournament's East Region on Thursday. That game may still be winnable for Syracuse, but going deep into the March Madness derby will be a challenge without Melo.
March Madness draws in hardcore and casual fans alike, with people in offices all over the nation going through the annual ritual of filling out brackets predicting winners at each stage. But brackets generally must be completed by tipoff, and with the first "play-in" game set for 6:40 p.m. EST, between Western Kentucky and Mississippi Valley State, the news of Melo's ouster likely has fans scrambling to redraw their brackets.
The school did not say why he was ruled ineligible.
"Syracuse University sophomore men's basketball center Fab Melo did not travel with the team to Pittsburgh, and will not take part in the NCAA Tournament due to an eligibility issue," read a statement posted on the university's website. "Given University policy and federal student privacy laws, no further details can be provided at this time."
According to ESPN, Melo's tournament ban is linked to the same academic problem that led to his three game suspension earlier in the season.
"This is an academic issue related to the first suspension," a source told ESPN. "He was initially cleared after the suspension but the NCAA has since revisited the case and deemed him ineligible again," the source said.
The Jim Boeheim-coached team's only regular-season loss, a 67-58 defeat at Notre Dame on Jan. 21, came with Melo sitting out.
NewsCore contributed to this report.