In 2010, starting center Arinze Onuaku's ill-timed knee injury derailed Syracuse's national championship hopes. In 2012, 7-footer Fab Melo's inability to remain academically eligible contributed to the Orange again falling short of the Final Four.
Tempting as it is to compare Monday evening's news that fellow Syracuse big man DaJuan Coleman will undergo season-ending surgery to repair damage to his left leg, the reality is that this is not nearly as crushing a loss.
Whereas Onuaku was a capable low-post scorer and the team's best rim protector in 2010 and Melo anchored Syracuse's two-three zone with his shot blocking in 2012, Coleman was merely part of a three-man big man rotation for this season's Orange. He logged more than 20 minutes in a game only once this season and averaged 4.3 points and 4.2 boards, modest production that fellow big men Baye-Moussa Keita and Rakeem Christmas should be able to duplicate.
Coleman first sustained his injury Dec. 28 against Villanova. Syracuse routed the Wildcats with Coleman playing only six minutes and reeled off six more consecutive wins in his absence to improve to 18-0 overall and 5-0 in ACC play. Forward Jerami Grant has moved into the starting lineup in place of Coleman, while Christmas has started at center with Keita serving as the primary back-up.
The one way Syracuse will feel Coleman's absence is in its depth. Only seven players crack the rotation in close games, so forwards Grant and C.J. Fair will continue to have to play huge minutes.
Still, Syracuse was likely to have a pretty short bench even if Coleman had returned from his injury later this season. As long as the Orange don't sustain any more injuries, they still have just enough proven depth to compete with anyone in the nation.
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