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Syracuse vs. Clemson Q&A with Shakin The Southland

Let’s get a win and shake up the southland, shall we?

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

If there ever were a time to point out that Syracuse went 2-0 against Clemson in 2017, now would be that time. If there ever were a time for Syracuse to pick up a win over Clemson, however, there would probably never be a better time than now as the Orange are fighting for their collective NCAA Tournament lives.

Saturday’s game represents a significant challenge and, cliche to say, a big opportunity. A win could serve as a harbinger of things to come. A loss would mark as a symbol of the Syracuse basketball season. Do the Orange finally get that preeminent win it desperately so craves to prove to the selection committee it belongs in the field of 68, or will it be a microcosm of this season of almosts? Only time will tell, but to gather further insight we brought on Drew Schneider from our sister rival site, the well-chronicled, ever-so-storied, Shakin The Southland.

TNIAAM: You guys aren’t bad at shootyhoops for a football school, are you?

Drew Schneider: After years in the wilderness we have finally seen the shootyhoops/squeekyshoes light. It has been a difficult transition with lots of rules explanations. I’ve been working on a 7 hour 2-3 zone presentation in an attempt to explain exactly to our fans “what in the hell” Syracuse does on defense. It will be a complete failure, but I’m willing to die trying.

TNIAAM: Clemson dropped three straight before handling Georgia Tech at home. What’s happened in the stretch?

DS: FSU swarmed us in the 2nd half with their crazy athletic wings and hit a bunch of bad shots to beat us in overtime. They also landed an elbow directly to our PG Shelton Mitchell’s temple (no foul of course) that required him to be scraped off the floor and carried to the locker room like a sleeping toddler.

We played Duke tough without Mitchell, but couldn’t finish in the last 2 minutes. Also, Gabe Devoe forgot how to shoot and went 1-10, which didn’t help.

Virginia Tech took advantage of Mitchell still being out, Robinson dominated the game for Virginia Tech on offense, and we couldn’t figure out how to score.

TNIAAM: How has losing Donte Grantham impacted this team and what did they lose in him from a production and also leadership standpoint?

DS: We have no replacement for Grantham on the roster. We’re not nearly as explosive on offense without Grantham. We’ve had to replace his scoring with a higher output from our guards and that doesn’t work that well if one of them is cold or concussed. We may actually be slightly better on defense with David Skara, but he shoots the ball like he’s angry at the backboard. I think we’ve got a pretty decent team dynamic, with several veteran players like Reed and Devoe, so while we obviously miss our most experienced player from a leadership standpoint, that void has been a little easier to fill.

TNIAAM: Clemson is ranked No. 8 nationally in defensive efficiency, what makes it so good on that end?

DS: I know it sounds cliche, but this team plays extremely hard and are all connected on the defensive end. You just don’t see many breakdowns for open shots. We make teams score over our perimeter defenders and Eli Thomas has finally turned into the rim protector everyone thought he could be coming out of high school. Brownell hangs his hat on defense, and after a weird regression on that end last year, I’m assuming we spent the majority of our practice time early in the season trying to fix that this year.

TNIAAM: Reed and DeVoe are really good players who present a big challenge for Syracuse, especially when considering the Orange struggled to defend the three earlier in the year. What do those two bring to the table?

DS: Reed is a great scorer. He can shoot from the outside, but he’s at his best when he combines his outside shooting with dribble penetration because he has a knack for getting fouled, and is one of the best free throw shooters in the ACC. He’s not very big, and he’s not an elite athlete, but he’s a great basketball player.

Devoe is more of a gunner. He’s going to come off a bunch of screens and hunt 3 pointers. If he gets hot early, he’s usually going to stay hot the rest of the game. He isn’t that tall (for a basketball player, I’m 6’3 and most people consider me tall) but he goes around 210 and uses his strength to create space on offense. The only problem with Devoe is that when he’s cold, he’s really cold, and he can shoot you out of a game, because he’s going to keep pulling the trigger, regardless of results.

TNIAAM: Lastly, what’s the final score and why?

DS: I honestly have no idea, because you guys are so incredibly inconsistent on offense. I feel like we match up well because we shoot the ball really well 1-3 and Eli Thomas is good on the offense glass.

Shot in the dark: Clemson 73 - Cuse 67

Thanks, Drew for the intel.

Thoughts, you guys? Per usual, leave your hopes and worries in the comment section you know what to do.