Day & Time: Saturday, March 9 at noon ET.
Location: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, S.C.
Line: N/A but ESPN’s BPI gives Clemson a 68.5 percent of beating Syracuse.
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, Sirius 93/XM 193
Clemson blog: Shakin’ the Southland
Rivalry: Tied, 4-4
Current Streak: 3, Orange
First Meeting: Syracuse tipped off the 1960-61 season against Clemson on a neutral court, and it proceeded to lose, 78-67. It was an omen as the Orangemen would go on to finish with a 4-19 record. In that opener, Pete “Chudman” (no idea if that was his real nickname, but I like it) Chudy led the way with 19 points.
Afterward, Tiger fans ran from the stands and met each other at center court, but they repeatedly told everyone, “don’t worry, we do this after every game. It’s not a big deal.”
Last Meeting: Syracuse earned its fourth win a row by taking down Clemson, 61-53, in the Carrier Dome. It was the type of performance as a team that prompted Tyus Battle to say, “no one had a huge night.” In looking at the numbers, the junior wasn’t wrong.
Elijah Hughes led the way with 14 points, Battle and Frank Howard each added 12 points a piece for the Orange. Also, Marek Dolezaj was also in on the action by scoring a season-best 10 points.
Really, though, it was the defense that led the way.
Syracuse held the Tigers to a (then) season low in total points, and the Orange were able to pile on 20 points via 17 Clemson turnovers. That stat was aided by the fact that the Orange, while leading by six early in the second half, also forced the issue with a full-court press. The change up in defense created havoc and eventually allowed for SU to cruise to the home victory.
Head Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (43rd year, 1,046-382); Clemson: Brad Brownell (9th year, 166–124, 333–209 overall)
Coach Bio: Brownell wrapped up his playing career at DePaul, then jumped into coaching as an assistant at Evansville. He went from there to Indianapolis, then to an assistant gig at UNC-Wilmington.
After eight years with the Seahawks, he got the head-coaching job in 2002 at the school. Two Colonial Athletic titles in four years led him to Wright State. Brownell made the NCAAs in year one, then fell short for three straight seasons after.
Clemson grabbed him from there, and since he arrived, he’s made just one NCAA Tournament (2011) -- though has only had a losing record once.
Last Year: Clemson finished the season 25-10 and 11-7 in the ACC. It was a banner year for Clemson. The 25 victories were tied for most ever in a single season for the school. The 11 conference victories? The most ever for the Tigers.
Brownell’s team shook off a late-season loss at Syracuse to advance all the way to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. After beating New Mexico State and Auburn in the Big Dance, the Tigers bowed out to Kansas, 80-76.
Starting 12-1 in 2017-18, Clemson found itself among the top-25 in early January. The Tigers, rose in the rankings all the way to No. 11 before suffering a three-game losing streak in mid-February. Despite that tough stretch, Clemson never left the Land of the Ranked all the way to the end.
Five players averaged double figures in scoring through the season, led by Marcquise Reed, who scored 15.8 per game.
Last game: Clemson finally was able to do something it hadn’t done all season on Wednesday night. The Tigers stopped an oh-for-5 streak in games decided by two points or less by taking down Notre Dame on the road, 64-62.
Clemson, which handed the Fighting Irish their sixth straight defeat, was led by Marcquise Reed’s 22 points. Elijah Thomas also contributed with a monster game of his own. The senior forward scored 14 points, grabbed eight boards and even blocked four shots.
With the outcome still very much in doubt, Reed was able to come up with a pivotal steal with less than 30 seconds to play. After being fouled, Reed then canned two crucial free throws to give the Tigers a three-point lead, all but sealing the deal for Brad Brownell’s team.
“Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: I learned a long time ago to try and not be the smartest guy in the room. So therefore I’m going to go with the most obvious answer because it’s probably the actual answer.
Marcquise Reed scored 16 points inside the Dome back in early January and put his Clemson team on his shoulders in South Bend earlier this week. The senior guard leads the Tigers in scoring (19.2 ppg) and in steals (2.2 per game), and he is the key player in coach Brad Brownell’s system. Reed was 10 of 16 shooting from the field against North Carolina last weekend and is someone who could go off at any time against just about any team.
Senior Elijah Thomas is also a potential threat. Thomas went for 13 points in the defeat in the Dome and has become a regular double-digit scorer for the Tigers since the middle of last month—he was a beast against Notre Dame. The six-foot-nine forward lives in the lane and makes over 63 percent of his close-range attempts.
If Syracuse Wins: It would be a way to wrap up the regular season in a nice and neat package. Beating Clemson on the road gives Syracuse another away-from-the-Dome victory and it would be victory number 11 in the ACC. All of it would further separate the Orange from the rest of the true “bubble” teams.
In other words, beating the Tigers might help push Syracuse toward that 8-vs.-9 NCAA Tournament opener, and could eliminate any sweating come Selection Sunday.
If Syracuse Loses: A defeat in South Carolina Saturday shoves Syracuse closer to the bubble, be it the right or wrong side of it right now.
Losing to the Tigers isn’t a fatal move, but it puts a little more pressure on the Orange to get at least one ACC tourney victory and it might even cause Jim Boeheim’s team to eventually be a double-digit seed in the Big Dance.
Fun Fact No. 1: Horace Grant went to Clemson and also later became a recognizable player in the NBA, even winning four titles in his 17-year professional career. But he’s probably really most known for being former Syracuse standout Jerami Grant’s uncle.
Fun Fact No. 2: It’s kind of surprising, but Clemson’s biggest “rival” is most likely South Carolina. The two in-state programs have had some heated battles on the gridiron, sure. But given the fact that Syracuse has had success against the Tigers on the basketball court, and that the Orange are the last team to beat the Tigers in regular-season football, wouldn’t it make most sense to say that SU is really the biggest thorn in Clemson’s side? Yes, yes it would. So... it’s Syracuse that Clemson should worry about.