Syracuse’s first game against Clemson was an absolute mess. The Orange shot 12% from the field in the first half, and allowed a slow Clemson offense to put up 78 points. SU was thoroughly outclassed in Littlejohn Coliseum.
But just under a month later, Syracuse’s season is in a much different place. The Orange are coming off their only Quad 1 win of the season, and need a victory over the Tigers to slide all the back into the NCAA tournament picture. So how do they do it? Let’s break down some keys to the game.
Shut Down Clemson’s Three Point Shooters
Last time the two teams faced off, Clemson’s Nick Honor hit four threes in the first half. The Tigers as a team shot 43% from behind the arc. Brad Brownell’s team has won three straight games since topping SU, and in each game Clemson has been hitting threes. The Tigers were 50% from downtown against Georgia Tech and Miami, and Alex Hemenway drained five of six treys in a 60-39 win over Wake Forest. If Syracuse doesn’t close out, Clemson will fill it up.
Take Smart Shots
Clemson is also one of the slowest teams in the nation. KenPom ranks the Tigers 327th in tempo. That means if Syracuse runs up the floor and misses an early shot clock three, Clemson then will walk the ball up the court and make SU defend for the full 30-second shot clock. Especially with Kadary Richmond and Quincy Guerrier injured, Syracuse needs to give its players as much time to rest as possible. Rest on offense, while moving the ball around the perimeter and looking to find a look inside.
Keep the Game Close
There’s no stat for this, but it’s simple. When facing a team that plays slow and plays good defense, it’s going to be tough to score. However, Clemson has gone through offensive rough patches as well. Syracuse, especially Buddy Boeheim, has been shooting better from behind the arc as of late. So instead of saving three threes to recover from a nine-point deficit, use them to open a nine-point gap. SU can play at Clemson’s tempo, but it’s going to take patience and some tough shot-making to keep it up for 40 minutes. The Orange have to bide their time, then go on a run.
Unless NC State beats Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, Syracuse is locked into the ninth seed in the ACC tournament bracket. The Orange will face Duke or Georgia Tech at noon on Wednesday, March 10th, depending on the outcome of the other teams’ games this week.
The bigger picture matters a lot more at this point. An SU victory isn’t a Quad 1 win, but it’s still an impressive resume builder. More importantly, it’s a momentum builder towards the ACC tournament, where one hot team could make a run to the championship game (especially since conference parity seems to be at an all-time high). Regardless if Syracuse wins or loses, let’s be thankful the Orange have a week to rest after today’s game.
Syracuse and Clemson tip off at 5 today. Keep it locked on our Twitter @OrangeFizz for updates.