SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 04:  Frank Howard #23 of the Syracuse Orange motions to a teammate during the first half against the Virginia Cavaliers at the Carrier Dome on March 4, 2019 in Syracuse, New York. Virginia defeats Syracuse 79-53.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Syracuse senior guard Frank Howard’s 2018-19 season may have just come to an unceremonious end. 

Dana O’Neil of The Athletic reported Wednesday that the school has officially announced Howard will not play in the NCAA tournament because of an undisclosed violation of “athletic policy rules.” 

Jeff Goodman of Stadium detailed that Howard will be unable to play in the tournament “for an indefinite period of time,” which theoretically leaves the door open for Howard to make an appearance depending on how deep the Orange make it in the West Region.

Eighth-seeded Syracuse’s title campaign will begin against No.9 Baylor on Thursday at 9:57 p.m. ET in Salt Lake City. 

Howard has averaged 8.9 points, 2.9 assists and 2.0 rebounds this season.

While Howard is not a statistical leader for Syracuse this season, he is a senior presence. That matters in March, even if Howard has notoriously been an up-and-down producer. The best of his four years with the Orange came last season when he averaged 14.4 points in 38.4 minutes per game.

CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein emphasized the importance of having a veteran guard like Howard available in the NCAA tournament while also lamenting “another example of kids putting what’s important to them over the team”: 

The ACC tournament last week saw Howard return to that form as he scored 46 points across two games on 8-of-16 shooting from the three-point line. His uptick coincided with the absence of leading scorer Tyus Battle, who was out with a sore back. 

Syracuse lost to Duke in the quarterfinals, but Howard made headlines for appearing to intentionally trip Blue Devils superstar freshman forward Zion Williamson. According to the Associated Press“Howard denied trying to trip Williamson and the school did not say if the suspension was related to the alleged attempt.”

Battle will be active for the NCAA tournament and told Mike Waters of that he and his teammates were informed of Howard’s discipline “when you guys found out.” In a video posted by CNYCentral, Battle was confident in the team’s ability to figure out a way forward without Howard: 

Howard missed the first four games of this season with an ankle injury that eventually required surgery. In his absence, Syracuse went 2-2. Once he made his season debut on Nov. 21, the Orange rattled off five wins in a row. Howard started in 29 games following his injury.

Now, Syracuse has no other option but to go undefeated without Howard. If any head coach can handle a loss like this at the last minute, it’s Jim Boeheim. Boeheim will regroup and try to lead his squad to at least a second consecutive Sweet Sixteen. 

Syracuse’s Sweet Sixteen run last season was a surprise given the Orange were the last team in the field, so making a run without Howard—while not ideal—is not improbable. 

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