Syracuse (31-2) opens the tournament against 16th-seeded UNC Asheville tomorrow afternoon. Sophomore Baye Keita and freshman Rakeem Christmas, a graduate of Academy of the New Church, are likely to play at center in place of Melo, the Big East defensive player of the year.
As head coach Jim Boeheim left the bus in front of the team hotel in Pittsburgh yesterday, he at first said he had nothing to say, but then told the Associated Press, "All we can do is be ready to play with the guys we have."
This is the latest development in a tumultuous season at Syracuse. Last week, school officials said the university had self-reported possible violations of its internal drug policy by former members of the team more than a year ago, and that the NCAA was investigating. In a report, Yahoo Sports said a 3-month investigation it conducted showed that the men's basketball program failed to adhere to the drug policy while playing ineligible players over the past decade. None of the current members of the team was involved.
And the season began with the dismissal of associate head coach Bernie Fine after two former ballboys accused him of sexually molesting them in the 1980s. While charges have yet to be filed, Fine was fired in November.
Boeheim and the university also are facing a defamation suit filed by the ballboys. In that case, lawyers seeking the dismissal of the lawsuit argued yesterday that Boeheim's combative comments were merely blunt opinions laced with "rhetoric and hyperbole."
The lawyers noted Boeheim's professed lack of personal knowledge of the alleged abuse and "his well-known reputation for bluntly expressing himself."
Glen Rice Jr. has been kicked off the Georgia Tech basketball team after being charged in a shooting incident outside an Atlanta nightclub. Coach Brian Gregory made the announcement yesterday, less than a week after Rice, a graduate student-manager and another person were charged. Rice, son of the former NBA star, led Georgia Tech in scoring and rebounding but already was serving his second suspension at the time of the incident, in which a gun was allegedly fired accidentally.
* North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he probably won't know until tomorrow whether John Henson will be ready for the Tar Heels' NCAA opener. Henson injured his left wrist in a fall during the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. The 6-10 forward didn't play the final two games of the tournament. Henson averaged 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks per game, and is a two-time ACC defensive player of the year.
* SMU has fired men's basketball coach Matt Doherty after six seasons in which the high-profile former North Carolina coach failed to take the Mustangs to the NCAA Tournament. Doherty was 13-19 this year, 80-109 in six years.