After a rough patch of events from the sudden loss of Mookie Jones and suspension of Fab Melo on the same day followed by the first loss of the season to Notre Dame, Syracuse has rebounded.
Not only by winning two straight over Cincinnati and West Virginia, but getting Melo back will help in all areas.
But three things were missing during the three games in which Melo was not manning the middle in the 2-3 zone for the Orange.
The numbers may not be gaudy for Melo, but he brings an attitude inside against opossing offenses. Leading the Big East in blocks is nice, but he effects several more shots per game than just the three he averages getting a hand on.
Melo also will step in to take charges better than most 7-footers will, and he will let opponents know when he does so. Though sometimes close to getting into scuffles, Melo likes to remind players why he was such a coveted recruit two years ago.
Again, the numbers aren't gaudy, but when Melo was gone SU had a tough time getting offense from Baye Moussa Keita and Rakeem Christmas. Melo has a decent inside game from the post, and he has mastered the art of the screen-and-roll with Scoop Jardine. The two have an admitted trust for each other, and it's what Melo let the public know (via Twitter) immediately after being re-instated.
Melo isn't the swiftest players on the floor, but many of the Orange's big transition plays begin with a Melo block or defensive play. He does run the floor well for his size, especially when considering where he was a year ago.
Melo's defense also helps Syracuse to go on one of those mega-runs that they seemed to execute during every game, something lacking over the last three contests.
He may not be the same player initially, but Syracuse will be closer to the dominant team it looked like early in the season with their big man back in the middle.