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Syracuse's Fab Melo grows up

Syracuse center Fab Melo, right, blocks a shot

Syracuse center Fab Melo, right, blocks a shot by Stanford forward Josh Owens during the first half of the championship game in the NIT Season Tip-Off college basketball tournament on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011 at New York's Madison Square Garden. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) Credit: AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Despite getting my vote for the NIT Season Tip-Off all-tournament team, 7-foot Syracuse center Fab Melo didn't make it. The voters were more impressed with the contributions off the bench by C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters in both games to help tournament MVP Kris Joseph.

But you can believe Melo made a major impact in the Orange's 69-63 win over Stanford in the title game Friday evening. Melo scored only six points, but he had nine rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals. In truth, it seemed he had more than three blocks, but at least he bothered a lot more Cardinal shots.

Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said Melo's presence was the reason forward Josh Owens had only four points and a 2-of-7 shooting night after scoring 21 in Wednesday's semifinal win over Oklahoma State. Stanford guard Aaron Bright, who was on the all-tournament team, was fearless driving into the paint, but he said of Melo, "He had a presence on every pass I made and every shot I took. He definitely had an impact."

Still only a sophomore, Melo figures to be a growing presence in the Big East as he matures along with fellow sophs Fair, Waiters and 6-10 Baye Keita. "We're playing those young guys, and they have to be good for us,"Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "Fab is going to be really good. He's not there yet. But he discourages [opponents] in there, and he's only going to get better."

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