The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (10-4, 1-0) will look to make it back-to-back wins to start ACC play when they face the Clemson Tigers (10-4, 0-1) in the Carrier Dome at 8 p.m. ET tonight. Syracuse started ACC play with a win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but if we’ve learned anything the last few years, it’s that there will be no easy wins in the ACC.
Clemson is coming off of a loss to the Duke Blue Devils, but the Orange will need to play attacking basketball from the tip if they want to move to 2-0 in conference play. Let’s see what the TNIAAM team has to say after a perfect outing in the Notre Dame game.
Syracuse 68, Clemson 63
Clemson doesn’t shoot the well from behind the arc — just 32 percent on the season — but they rank 18th nationally in two-point field goal percentage. Syracuse should pack it in and force Clemson to shoot over the zone, hopefully shooting themselves into a hole. Elijah Thomas is the x-factor in this one: he’s 6-foot-9, 251 pounds and gets up and down the floor pretty well. He’ll be a tough matchup inside for whoever Syracuse has on the floor at center. Thomas has three or more fouls in 11 of 14 games this season, so the Orange should be aggressive when driving the basket to force him into some foul trouble.
Syracuse 71, Clemson 70
The margin for error is tiny between these two teams, as it was last year when Paschal Chukwu blocked two shots on one play to essentially save the Orange’s NCAA Tourney hopes in the first week of March. Much of both rosters return from last year’s 55-52 game, particularly Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell who held the Tigers in it possession for possession at Duke the other day until Zion Williamson happened. Syracuse appears to be improving offensively, which they’ll need to continue to do against a stingy defense that limits interior efficiency and free throws allowed — much like the Notre Dame game. Elijah Hughes made up for it with his shooting and Tyus Battle’s junior excellence continues. A fairly quick turnaround from the Duke trip should help Syracuse somewhat, but they’ll need to value every possession as these two teams stand so closely in talent and analytics. Even at home, the Orange may need to convert a final possession to hold off the Tigers. A key stat: Syracuse is a top-60 three-point defense, Clemson sits outside the top 300.
Syracuse 75, Clemson 72
The Orange have been way to inconstant for me to feel confident about this one, so I’m going to call it as a nail-biting win for the home team. The perimeter players are going to do their thing scoring the ball, but I see a big man, either Marek Dolezaj, Paschal Chukwu, or Bourama Sidibe, having a breakout game in this one. The Orange win on some clutch shots from Tyus Battle, but some solid play inside will be the difference in this one.
Syracuse 65, Clemson 62
I’m not going to call this a “must win” but the Orange needs to get wins and taking care of home court is going to be crucial moving forward. The Tigers are a veteran group and Elijah Thomas will test Syracuse’s frontcourt. In the end Syracuse makes enough shots to escape with the win.
Syracuse 70, Clemson 61
Clemson got a big lift when Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell decided to return to school and David Skara had a change of heart, turning down pro ball in Croatia to return to South Carolina. Those three along with Elijah Thomas represent a veteran Tiger squad that was ranked in the preseason. Reed has since returned from a sprained knee that kept him out of three non-conference games but he’s shown no signs of slowing down, shooting over 50 percent in each of his last three contests. That said, Brad Brownell confirmed on Monday’s ACC coaches teleconference that he’ll be in a knee brace for this one so we’ll see if he can get going against the Orange.
While the Tigers don’t shoot it well from three, they’re a problem inside and Thomas is third in the conference when it comes to drawing fouls and creating contact. That could spell trouble for the Syracuse big men, but ultimately I think Syracuse continues to build off its hot shooting performance it had at Notre Dame given Clemson struggles to defend the three. Taco Time!
Syracuse 72, Clemson 69
This one will come down to the wire, with the Orange hitting the needed free throws late to escape against a pesky Tigers squad. As others have mentioned, they’re not great from three, but Clemson is pretty accurate shooting from inside the arc — something that could dictate success against the zone. Foul trouble for Syracuse could be the deciding factor. If our bigs send theirs to the line frequently, things will get very problematic as the game goes on. If we can force shots from the perimeter, SU should be able to pull the win (provided they’re hitting enough shots themselves, which is not always a sure thing).
Who will win the Syracuse vs. Clemson game?
This poll is closed
The Orange, and we remain perfect in ACC play!
The Tigers, and the National Title parade has another thing to celebrate.