James Helps 'Cuse Get to the Southern-land

With the lingering thoughts and feelings of what was potentially lost as a result of the Fab Melo suspension, having the Syracuse senior forward in this postseason has calmed worries and led to success. More inside.

When the Syracuse Orange men's basketball program stood at the doorstep of the NCAA Tournament this season, they did so with senior forward James Southerland.

But the worry and paranoia surrounding whether or not Southerland would be standing alongside his teammates for the national postseason was something palpable in the air.

Just a season ago, former Syracuse center Fab Melo was suspended for off-the-court reasons during the season, just as Southerland was in this the 2012-13 campaign.

After being cleared to play, Melo was suspended once again and barred from competing in the NCAA Tournament.

That action left some uncertainty to the Orange community on if the same gavel would slam down again on the hopes of the Orange having success in the NCAA Tournament.

After winning three straight games to advance to the Big East Conference Tournament championship, all was quiet.

The NCAA Tournament began out on the west coast for the Orange in San Jose, California, and Southerland was there, ready to play and did play.

Though Syracuse had success during Southerland's suspension, going 4-2, his absence from this postseason, in hindsight, being referred to as a road block would be an understatement.

During the conference tournament, Southerland connected on 19 of his three-point attempts, raising the record originally set by former player and current assistant coach at Syracuse, Gerry McNamara (16), for threes made in a single Big East Tournament.

He went 7-for-11 and 7-for-10 in back-to-back games versus the Seton Hall Pirates and Pittsburgh Panthers, respectively, to begin the Big East Tournament. Southerland went 12-for-15 from beyond the arc in those two matches combined.

The Syracuse senior has made multiple three-pointers in six of the eight contests the Orange have played in during this current postseason.

Southerland has also assisted his teammates on their own makes in five of their eight postseason match-ups.

Along with his offense, a key component in Syracuse's success has been Southerland's input on the defensive end. In all eight postseason games, Southerland has grabbed multiple rebounds on the defensive glass, gaining four or more boards in half of those games.

Keeping with condensing offensive opportunities for the postseason opponents of the Orange, Southerland has attained a steal in seven of the last eight games, with multiple steals in five of those games.

While giving Syracuse more opportunities on the offensive end with steals as well as at least one offensive rebound in five of the team's eight postseason contests, Southerland has held onto the ball better. Outside of one game, the loss to the Louisville Cardinals, Southerland has had no more than two turnovers in any given game, making one turnover or less in five of those games.

Though there is a notion that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, a player can become better if they are willing to ask more of themselves.

Southerland's aid on the offensive and defensive ends has helped keep the Orange dancing. Now it is time to see if Southerland and Syracuse can keep their feet moving all the way to the national championship.

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