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Syracuse won’t have Fab Melo for NCAA tournament

Mar 13, 2012, 2:41 PM EDT

spt-120313-fab AP

Syracuse’s NCAA tournament title hopes took a significant hit Tuesday when the school announced sophomore center Fab Melo will not participate because of eligibility issues.

Melo did not travel with the team to Pittsburgh for its first-round game. The school did not offer any further details.

The sophomore center has dealt with eligibility issues before this season, which caused him to miss three games in January, including  the Orange’s loss to Notre Dame. He’s among the nation’s elite shot-blockers and is the team’s leading rebounder. An ESPN report says the NCAA revisited the earlier academic issue and deemed Melo ineligible.

Related: Even without Melo, ‘Cuse won’t lose to 16 seed

Syracuse (31-2) had been able to deal with two off-court distractions this season, but here’s one that could affect their chances to even make the Elite Eight, let alone cut down the nets in New Orleans. The East’s top seed should still get by UNC Asheville in the first round, but later games against the likes of Kansas State, Vanderbilt or Wisconsin loom large.

Coach Jim Boeheim tried to downplay the injury, but did tell the Associated Press that “all we can do is be ready to play with the guys we have.”

“That’s all we can do,” he said. “There are injuries, things happen during a season. We’ll be ready to play and we’ll go play.”

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

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