Comparatively, Melo had solid season

Let’s compare three Syracuse players:

Player A
Games played: 20
Minutes: 245
Avg Minutes: 12.1
Points: 61
PPG: 3.0
Total rebound: 59
Off rebound: 24
RPG: 2.9
Assist: 8
Blocks: 22
TO: 16

Player B
Games played: 33
Minutes: 327
Avg Minutes: 9.9
Points: 77
PPG: 2.3
FGP: 60.7%
Total rebound: 64
Off rebound: 22
RPG: 1.9
Assist: 8
Blocks: 25
TO: 25

Player C
Games played: 36
Minutes: 780
Avg Minutes: 21.7
Points: 177
PPG: 4.9
FGP: 44.3%
Total rebound: 162
Off rebound: 73
RPG: 4.5
Assist: 41
Blocks: 65
TO: 45

Who are these three players? Player A is the average SU freshman center from the past 15 years (comprising 13 players). Player B is Fab Melo. Player C is the most productive freshman center Syracuse has had in the last 15 years. His name is Craig Forth.

What you can see is that Melo did slightly better than average, but he didn’t do that much worse than Syracuse’s best freshman center in 15 years. Was it disappointing that he didn’t live up to the hype? Yes. But is it surprising? Looking at the production of other freshman centers, I don’t think so. More importantly, is it Melo’s fault that he was given unrealistic expectations by the media? Absolutely not.

Given that Melo performed slightly better than average, I’m inclined to give him a C+.

But I think he might even deserve a B-, and here’s why. The average SU freshman center’s statistics are pulled up a great deal by Forth. Melo was infinitely better than the non-factors Sean Williams and Devan Brennan-McBride. Of course, they weren’t expected to do well. But Darryl Watkins was the number 5 center in the 2003 class, according to Scout.com, and a 4-star recruit. His freshman stats:

Darryl Watkins
Games played: 12
Minutes: 85
Avg Minutes: 7.1
Points: 21
PPG: 1.8
FGP: 36.0%
Total rebound: 24
Off rebound: 11
RPG: 2.0
Assist: 2
Blocks: 15
TO: 3

Going all the way back to 1984-1985, if we look at Rony Seikaly’s freshman season, we find that even one of Syracuse’s all-time best centers was only slightly more productive than Forth:

Rony Seikaly
Games played: 31
Minutes: 775
Avg Minutes: 25.0
Points: 250
PPG: 8.1
FGP: 54.2%
Total rebound: 198
Off rebound: 66
RPG: 6.4
Assist: 13
Blocks: 59
TO: 51

Thanks to Boeheim’s quick hook, you can take total minutes played as a rough proxy for a Syracuse freshman’s overall production. If he’s not performing well, chances are that Boeheim will remove him from the game. As it turns out, only 4 of the 13 freshman centers played more total minutes than Melo, and two of them were on his team. They were, in order of minutes played: Craig Forth, Baye Moussa Keita, Rick Jackson and Etan Thomas.

The other three on the list turned out pretty well for the Orange. Both Keita and Melo performed better than the majority of freshman centers the Orange has had in the past 15 years. Based on the development of Syracuse’s other top freshman centers, I think we can expect big things from them in the future.

But yes, I get it. Melo was supposed to be a savior, not the average between Devan Brennan-McBride and Craig Forth. Perhaps instead of whining about how we fell for the hype, we should take solace that Syracuse has done an excellent job at developing its top centers over their careers.

More importantly, perhaps we should reign in expectations for Rakeem Christmas. Yes, Scout.com ranks him as the No. 1 center in the 2011 class, and he’s a 5-star recruit. But if you watched him in the McDonald’s All-American game, it should be clear that he’s not going to come in next year and average double figures. The best we should hope for are Craig Forth’s numbers, perhaps with a few more blocks—if we’re lucky.

But remember, in Forth’s sophomore season we won the national title.

Below is a complete list of player stats:

Fab Melo (10-11)
Games played: 33
Minutes: 327
Avg Minutes: 9.9
Points: 77
PPG: 2.3
FGP: 60.7%
Total rebound: 64
Off rebound: 22
RPG: 1.9
Assist: 8
Blocks: 25
TO: 25

Baye Moussa Keita (10-11)
Games played: 35
Minutes: 511
Avg Minutes: 14.6
Points: 77
PPG: 2.2
FGP: 56.4%
Total rebound: 131
Off rebound: 48
RPG: 3.7
Assist: 7
Blocks: 43
TO: 20

DaShonte Riley (09-10)
Games played: 17
Minutes: 157
Avg Minutes: 9.2
Points: 23
PPG: 1.4
FGP: 60.0%
Total rebound: 26
Off rebound: 8
RPG: 1.5
Assist: 11
Blocks: 16
TO: 12

Rick Jackson (07-08)
Games played: 35
Minutes: 452
Avg Minutes: 12.9
Points: 130
PPG: 3.7
FGP: 52.6%
Total rebound: 105
Off rebound: 42
RPG: 3.0
Assist: 19
Blocks: 44
TO: 32

Sean Williams (07-08)
Games played: 4
Minutes: 22
Avg Minutes: 5.5
Points: 6
PPG: 1.5
FGP: 60.0%
Total rebound: 1
Off rebound: 0
RPG: 0.3
Assist: 0
Blocks: 2
TO: 2

Devan Brennan-McBride (05-06)
Games played: 6
Minutes: 23
Avg Minutes: 3.8
Points: 5
PPG: 0.8
FGP: 100.0%
Total rebound: 3
Off rebound: 1
RPG: 0.5
Assist: 0
Blocks: 0
TO: 2

Arinze Onuaku (04-05)
Games played: 29
Minutes: 243
Avg Minutes: 8.4
Points: 58
PPG: 2.0
FGP: 56.1%
Total rebound: 80
Off rebound: 32
RPG: 2.8
Assist: 4
Blocks: 13
TO: 13

Darryl Watkins (03-04)
Games played: 12
Minutes: 85
Avg Minutes: 7.1
Points: 21
PPG: 1.8
FGP: 36.0%
Total rebound: 24
Off rebound: 11
RPG: 2.0
Assist: 2
Blocks: 15
TO: 3

Craig Forth (01-02)
Games played: 36
Minutes: 780
Avg Minutes: 21.7
Points: 177
PPG: 4.9
FGP: 44.3%
Total rebound: 162
Off rebound: 73
RPG: 4.5
Assist: 41
Blocks: 65
TO: 45

Jeremy McNeil (99-00)
Games played: 6
Minutes: 40
Avg Minutes: 6.7
Points: 9
PPG: 1.3
FGP: 60.0%
Total rebound: 13
Off rebound: 5
RPG: 2.2
Assist: 0
Blocks: 6
TO: 5

Billy Celuck (98-99)
Games played: 9
Minutes: 44
Avg Minutes: 4.9
Points: 926
PPG: 2.9
FGP: 58.8%
Total rebound: 15
Off rebound: 7
RPG: 1.7
Assist: 3
Blocks: 6
TO: 5

Etan Thomas (96-97)
Games played: 25
Minutes: 408
Avg Minutes: 16.3
Points: 143
PPG: 5.7
FGP: 53.4%
Total rebound: 105
Off rebound: 52
RPG: 4.2
Assist: 3
Blocks: 48
TO: 33

Elvir Ovcina (95-96)
Games played: 17
Minutes: 91
Avg Minutes: 5.1
Points: 43
PPG: 2.5
FGP: 43.5%
Total rebound: 32
Off rebound: 16
RPG: 1.9
Assist: 3
Blocks: 5
TO: 11

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Jeff Irvine

About Jeff Irvine

Jeff has covered Massachusetts Minutemen basketball for The Maroon and White and The Daily Hampshire Gazette. He has also written for The Daily Orange. Jeff is an Amherst, Massachusetts native, and graduated from Syracuse University in 2006. Follow him on Twitter @jeffreyirvine.
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