For the second straight season No. 6 Syracuse has seen a key contributor be ruled ineligible for competition, with senior forward James Southerland currently sitting out.
Last year starting center Fab Melo was declared ineligible just before the NCAA tournament, and his absence was a big reason why the Orange failed to reach the Final Four.
But the question currently is why Southerland missed Syracuse’s 72-61 win over Villanova, and when will the team’s best perimeter shooter be allowed to return to the floor.
According to Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard the current eligibility issue may center around the writing of a term paper. Specifically, whether or not a tutor wrote part of Southerland’s term paper.
This isn’t the first time this season that an issue involving Southerland has occurred, as a question regarding the receiving of improper benefits nearly benched him for the Orange’s win at Providence. Southerland made a payment to reimburse for the receipt of the benefits according to the paper, which allowed him to play in the game.
He would be declared ineligible on January 11, one day before the win over Villanova.
After regaining his eligibility and playing against Providence, Southerland was ruled ineligible again two days later. According to two sources, the second suspension centers on a term paper.
One source said the NCAA questioned whether a tutor wrote a portion of Southerland’s term paper.
There was also a change to the Syracuse staff, as director of basketball operations Stan Kissel resigned last month and was replaced by one-time Syracuse graduate assistant Tim O’Toole.
Kissel had worked at Syracuse University since 2005. Kissel served as the program’s liaison to the Academic Services Department, according to the 2011-12 team media guide.
It’s not clear if Kissel’s resignation has anything to do with Southerland’s situation or the NCAA investigation.
The questions regarding the staff changes can be left for another day, but the big question for the the Orange remains where will they get consistent perimeter shooting from if there’s no resolution in regards to Southerland’s eligibility.
Of the Syracuse players who have attempted at least 50 three-pointers (four) the senior from Brooklyn has been the most accurate, as he’s hit 38.4% from distance. The best shooter of the other three players? Brandon Triche, who’s shooting just 31.4% from three.
And with Southerland averaging 13.6 points per game off the bench Jim Boeheim needs his other reserves to up their production, but with the youth of those players it’s more reasonable to expect more offensively from the likes of Triche and C.J. Fair.