The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team will put its seven-game winning streak on the line Saturday afternoon, when they visit the Clemson Tigers in an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Syracuse (13-4, 4-0 ACC) is coming off a thrilling overtime victory over the visiting Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 86-84, on Tuesday. Orange senior Rakeem Christmas netted a collegiate-best 35 points, while junior sharp-shooter Trevor Cooney added 21 points, which featured him making five of his dozen 3-point attempts.
Clemson (9-8, 1-3) will be trying to rebound from a 65-42 road loss to the No. 2-ranked Virginia Cavaliers. Redshirt sophomore Jaron Blossomgame saw a 13-game streak of double-figure scoring snapped, but the sophomore still led the Tigers with nine points and 10 rebounds, his seventh double-figure effort on the boards.
The Tigers have lost three of their last four games.
|Syracuse (projected starters)||Class||Ht.||Wt.||PPG||RPG|
|Michael Gbinije"]">Michael Gbinije||Jr.||6'7"||200||10.4||5.2|
|Kaleb Joseph"]">Kaleb Joseph||Fr.||6'3"||165||6.4||2.8|
|Tyler Roberson"]">Tyler Roberson||So.||6'8"||212||6.9||6.6|
The recent play of Christmas, who's averaging 19.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game in his last nine games, has almost reached legendary status.
On Tuesday, against Wake Forest's center Devin Thomas, Christmas was nearly unstoppable making 13 of his 21 attempts from the floor, knocking down 9 of his 12 free throws, collecting nine rebounds in a career performance.
His teammate, Trevor Cooney, is just as hot from behind the 3-point line, as he is making 45.9% of his attempts and averaging 18.7 ppg during the same span.
The duo, with the help of junior forward Michael Gbinije, who has pushed his point average from 6.7 ppg to 10.0 in the last 10 games (a lot of that has to do with he's shooting 60% from behind the 3-point arc) has helped propel the Orange to a perfect start in league play.
Playing their roles will be Kaleb Joseph, who's turning the ball over less; Tyler Roberson, who's averaging 7.1 rpg over the his last 10 games; and Ron Patterson, who's playing a lot of crunch-time minutes.
|Clemson (projected starters)||Class||Ht.||Wt.||PPG||RPG|
|Damarcus Harrison"]">Damarcus Harrison||Sr.||6'4"||205||10.4||3.5|
|Donte Grantham"]">Donte Grantham||Fr.||6'8"||205||9.5||4.8|
|Rod Hall"]">Rod Hall||Sr.||6'1"||205||9.1||2.4|
|Landry Nnoko"]">Landry Nnoko||Jr.||6'10"||255||8.3||6.0|
There's a lot of talk about the Orange's lack of roster depth, but Clemson may be even more aggressive when it comes to its rotation. It's starting five players (listed above) have started all 16 of the Tigers' games and all players are averaging over 25.9 minutes per game.
The bench, which features Jordan Roper (14.2 minutes per game), Austin Ajukwa (11.2 mpg) and Sidy Djitte (11.0), may play some but not much.
The leader of the group is redshirt sophomore Jaron Blossomgame, who's averaging a team-best 13.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg. Last season, Blossomgame averaged just 4.9 ppg. The leap in production is the third-best from last season to this season in the ACC. Only Syracuse's Christmas and Terry Rozier of the Louisville Cardinals have improved more.
Clemson's best wins of the season came in non-conference play against the nationally-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks (Dec. 7) and the LSU Tigers (Nov. 24). Both opponents lost by three points to the Tigers. The victory over Arkansas was only the second time in program history that a nationally-ranked team lost at Clemson.
Rod Hall netted a season-high 19 points in the victory over Arkansas, while Dontre Grantham added 14.
This game marks the first of a three-game home stand for Clemson, which host FSU (9-8, 1-3) on Monday and Wake Forest (9-9, 1-4) next Saturday.
|Record||(13-4, 4-0)||(9-8, 1-3)|
|Points Per Game||69.7||63.3|
|Turnovers Per Game||12.4||12.6|
In comparing the two teams, on average Clemson scores the least amount of points per game in the ACC, while Syracuse is near the middle of the pack. The Orange are holding opponents to the third-lowest average in the league, while the Tigers are also playing solid defense allowing the seventh-most points in the ACC.
Clemson's scoring woes could be attributed to its slow place-of-play average. According to a recent article by Syracuse.com, the Tigers played at the third-slowest pace in the conference. Surprisingly, No. 2 Virginia and the Pittsburgh Panthers play at a slower pace.
Again, the Orange will play one of the league's worst shooting teams, especially when it comes to 3-point shooting. The Tigers are making just 29.0% of their long-ball attempts and seemingly can't hit anything inside the line, as they are the worst in the league in field goal percentage.
Clemson also has the worst assist-to-made shot ratio in the league, as well as, it turns the ball over more than any other team in the ACC.
Game Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network (NBC 3 locally)–Mike Hogewood (play-by-play), Mike Gminski (color)
Radio: Syracuse IMG Radio Network
RPI Rating: Syracuse–44; Clemson–84
What A Win Could Mean: A victory for Syracuse would be another notch in the ACC belt for the 2014-15 season. Because of its poor non-conference showing, the Orange need to continue to beat the league programs it SHOULD beat. Clemson is one of those teams, as they're one of the 5-6 bottom-feeder squads that are nearly exact replicas of each other–the others being Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Florida State and Virginia Tech, which all teams Syracuse beat.
A loss could be a harmful one to SU's RPI, which is steadily in the mid-40s–a spot they need to continue to stay at by March.
Meaningless Prediction: Syracuse 58, Clemson 52
If things go Clemson's way on Saturday it will be because Syracuse's Rakeem Christmas got into foul trouble early, Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije aren't hitting any 3-pointers and SU's turnover number is higher than the Tigers.
Yes, a lot has to go the Tigers way to pull this one out.
Overall, it will be a low-scoring affair but the Orange should earn their eighth straight win.
|Syracuse Next 5 Games||Date||Time||TV|
|Boston College||1/20/2015||7:00 PM||ESPNU|
|at North Carolina||1/26/2015||7:00 PM||ESPN|
|Virgina Tech||2/3/2015||9:00 PM||ESPNU|
|at Pittsburgh||2/7/2015||4:00 PM||ACCN|