Well, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team won a game they really needed on Monday, taking down North Carolina and keeping slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive. That hope could be fleeting, of course, if they can’t continue that momentum into Wednesday night’s matchup with the Clemson Tigers, and at least a couple ACC Tournament matchups as well.
Before things get started at the weird time of 5 p.m. ET on ACC Network, we take a look at the top aspects of this game worth paying attention to.
Kevin: Cash in on turnovers
In the first meeting, Clemson committed 20 turnovers but Syracuse never took advantage as they had their worst shooting performance of the season. To get the win tonight the Orange need to convert those opportunities into points especially when they can get into their offense before the Tigers’ defense is set. Clemson wore down Syracuse with their half-court defense so generating some open looks through tempo would be a good idea in this one.
Christian: Hot potato
Clemson is one of the better defensive teams in the ACC, as the Orange painfully realized the last time these two teams played. The Tigers are an aggressive team that will get in Syracuse’s face to disrupt every shot. The way to counter that is to focus on an offensive area that gave the Orange success at the beginning of the season and during the first half against UNC: passing the ball. Syracuse’s passing has opened up space for Orange shooters to fire quality shots, and the lack of separation was a big reason why the Tigers shut down SU scorers the last time these two teams played. The ball can’t stay in one player’s hands for more than two seconds. Ball movement will be critical.
Szuba: Who’s tougher?
Clemson is one of the best defensive teams in the country, ranking 11th-best in Ken Pom defensive efficiency. In the first meeting, the Tigers stole Syracuse’s lunch money and the Orange didn’t do anything about it. They stood Syracuse up on their drives, made them take tough shots and out-rebounded SU 42-25. If Syracuse wants to edge closer to the NCAA Tournament bubble, they’ll have to play much tougher than they did in the first matchup. Quincy Guerrier and Jesse Edwards could be a big part of that.
John: Let Jesse Edwards cook
Look, I’m not claiming that Edwards is suddenly all-world, or that he’s even truly “ready” to play more than 20 minutes per game. But Syracuse was crushed on the boards by a relatively big Clemson team last time out. While UNC is even bigger and the Orange lost the rebounding battle by a lot on Monday, Edwards was the difference on the offensive end inside. There’s still little tape on him. It’s worth putting him out there — even if not for the 24 minutes he played vs. the Heels — to see if he can help equalize things inside.