Thursday, December 29, 2011

Melo's Sophomore Surprise

Fab Melo had a dominating defensive effort against Seton Hall last night, something Syracuse fans have waited for just over a year. Melo delivered more than anyone could have expected with a school record 10 blocks, coupled with 12 points (a career high). More importantly, he helped hold Seton Hall’s star center Herb Pope to 4 points, and the entire starting front line for the Pirates struggled to score against the Syracuse defense, getting only 13 points on 5 of 26 shooting.

Melo has definitely improved this year from last. He’s playing nearly 23 minutes a game this year versus only 10 last year. His scoring is up to 6.8 ppg, and rebounding 5.5, along with 2.9 blocks per game. Melo is making 53% of his field goal attempts, and following a strong Syracuse tradition of struggling at the free throw line hitting only 54%.

How does he compare to other sophomore centers at Syracuse? The average sophomore Syracuse center since 1965-1966, including bench players, shoots 53.4% from the floor, 58.8% from the free throw line, has 5.8 ppg and 4.8 rpg. This is based on 759 games played by true centers (i.e. not forwards who played some center) as sophomores.

The better standard is how is Fab Melo doing compared to the top 10 scoring sophomore centers in Orange history:

Bill Smith stands above the rest as a sophomore in terms of offensive production. At 6’11”, Smith was much taller than most his opponents in that era, and he was able to dominate offensively with 19 ppg and 11.6 rpg. As dominating as Smith was, Syracuse only went 9-16 his sophomore year.

Etan Thomas and Roosevelt Bouie were probably the best all-around sophomore centers, both known more for their defensive presence than their offense, though they both did score double digits.

Arinze Onuaku, whom I have thought has always been highly underrated at Syracuse, actually was the third best scorer with 12.7 ppg, and 8.1 rpg combined with a 62.8% from the floor.

Wayne Ward was a highly thought of center with a strong body and nice shooting touch. He would get into some legal problems after his sophomore season, and leave school, thus ending a promising career.

Danny Schayes makes the top ten even though he backed up Roosevelt Bouie. Jim Boeheim toyed with playing with two centers to get Schayes on the court more, but that experiment failed.

The rest of the list consists of three undersized but muscular hustling centers: Bob Dooms, Otis Hill, and Andre Hawkins.

Bouie was the only one of the group to score in double figures his freshman year. Smith, Dooms and Ward played in an era where freshman did not play on the varsity. Seikaly, Thomas, Hawkins and Hill played a lot their freshman seasons, but were in a lot of foul trouble and were raw. Schayes was on the bench, as was Onuaku. Onuaku has the numbers closest to Melo’s freshman year. Like Melo, Onuaku had a lot to learn about conditioning and he greatly improved in that area each year in school.

Melo has already improved a lot from last year. I would not expect him to average double figures in scoring for the season, even as he continue to improve. The schedule is getting tougher, and more importantly, Syracuse has a very deep squad with a lot of players who can score. There just is not going to be the need for him to score that much each and every game.  However, I would expect him to score in double digits a few times this year, and would not be surprised to see a 20 point effort pop up.  I would love to see some double digit rebounding efforts.
Melo will likely move into the top 10 scoring for sophomore centers, ending the year somewhere between Bob Dooms and Roosevelt Bouie in terms of points; playing in 35+ games helps you that way. 
My hat off to Melo for the effort last night. Hopefully the first of many!

No comments: