One loss is not a huge deal in the grand scheme over the course of the season, in fact, only nine college basketball teams have ever remained unbeaten from wire to wire. Or is it? The Orange, who were the nation's deepest team talent-wise, prior to the suspension (unresolved academic issues) of center Fab Melo, looked unable to replace the 7-foot sophomore over the weekend against Notre Dame.
Melo's interior defense has been critical to Syracuse's successes this season. He was averaging three blocks per game, including ten in the previous two games played alone. Melo was also still learning to use his length and strength to better his rebounding skills, where he grabbed nearly six missed shots a game. 'Cuse missed Melo's impact in both of these areas against the Fighting Irish; not only did they register just two blocks, but they were outrebounded by 13, including nine times on the offensive end for Notre Dame. The lack of interior defense allowed forward Jack Cooley to literally dominate inside; Cooley has had some big games for Notre Dame since mid-December, and clearly took advantage of Syracuse inside, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds (six offensive). He pounded the ball inside, overmatching Melo's replacement- 6'8", 210-pounder C.J. Fair.
It's just one loss for the Orange, their first of the season, so there is no reason to overreact. In addition to being without Melo, Syracuse didn't make things any easier for themselves, shooting 34 percent from the field, including just 7-of-23 from 3-point range.