Syracuse's national title hopes were dealt a serious -- perhaps fatal -- blow when Big East Defensive Player of the Year Fab Melo was declared ineligibile just before the start of the NCAA Tournament last March. Not much was known at the time or over the succeeding weeks about the reason behind the ruling, but now Melo himself is speaking out about the issue.
"It was academic," Melo said after working out for the Indianapolis Pacers earlier this week. "They ask, I explain (what) happened; that I came from another country and until four years ago didn't even speak English."
Melo was also suspended for three games in the middle of the season for academic reasons. Syracuse was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country at the time of Melo's suspension, but without him the Orange lost at Notre Dame on Jan. 21.
"It was very difficult not to be able to play," he said. "But that's something I couldn't do anything about."
Despite the academic issues and his having only played basketball for six years, Melo is hoping to be selected early in the first round of next week's NBA Draft.