From fringe-NIT team to NCAA Tournament hopeful, Syracuse has flipped its narrative in speedy fashion over the last two weeks. With five straight wins, all in conference, SU sits at number four in the ACC. The only teams above it are top-25 teams in Louisville, Florida State, and Duke. In order to keep the streak alive and hold on to their spot in the conference, the Orange will have to take care of the Clemson Tigers on Tuesday.
Sure, your first thought when you think of Clemson is that it’s a football school, but the Tigers are also performing at a high level on the basketball court this year. Clemson is 10-9 overall and 4-5 in conference play. Here are three things you need to know about the Tigers before Tuesday’s matchup.
Roller Coaster Ride
Just take a look at Clemson’s results this year. One day the Tigers are losing to Minnesota, Yale, or Miami, the next they are taking down the third best team in the country– Duke. Clemson is consistently inconsistent this season. You never know if they will come out and drop 80 or barely muster 45. Prior to their last game, the Tigers had won four out of five, including wins over NC State, UNC and Duke. They had all the momentum in the world, but then they got routed by 18 points to Louisville, which is granted a very good team. Ultimately, the major takeaway is this team is very streaky. It can compete with top-tier talent, but it can also falter. If you are a Syracuse fan, you hope to catch them on a down slope of their roller coaster ride.
Inside and Out
The Clemson offense can beat you inside and out. Its big man, Aamir Simms, is what makes the machine run. At 6’8”, 240 lbs, Simms is a physical specimen. Averaging 14 points, eight rebounds and three assists, his numbers aren’t too shabby. He is a strong presence on the inside, a place where Syracuse has struggled to defend at times this season. Just as Simms commands attention in the paint, John Newman III does the same on the outside. He is posting ten points a contest, and can stroke it, shooting at a mark of 35% from three point range. Both of these guys and the others are solid offensive options, but they aren’t All-ACC type of players. No one stands out as a take-over-the-game threat. It should be said though– other than Al-Amir Dawes, Clemson is pretty darn tall. Even its guards have some height.
Defense Wins Championships
Ever since Head Coach Brad Brownell took over the program at Clemson in 2010, the Tigers have been a defensive-minded team. This year is no different. Let’s look at some numbers. Clemson ranks in the top-75 of scoring defenses, giving up only 65.1 points per game. It is three spots better than Syracuse in terms of steals per game, averaging 7.3. The Tigers are also in the top-125 when it comes to field goal percentage defense, only allowing opponents to shoot 41.4% from the field. Those are some pretty good numbers and worthy of being one of the better defenses in the ACC. If the Orange want to be successful against this Tiger defense, they will have to rely heavily on their shooters, which isn’t a horrible game plan with how Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Hughes have been playing recently.
Syracuse takes on Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum this Tuesday starting at 7 PM.