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Clemson Basketball: Syracuse Preview

My strongly worded letters to the NCAA demanding the 2-3 zone be banned have gone here we go again.

Syracuse v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Clemson (10-9) Vs Syracuse (13-7)

Tuesday, January 27th, 7 PM EST

Littlejohn Coliseum


The Louisville game was u-g-l-y. It was a bad match up for Clemson and even still, they played worse than I expected. Aamir Simms and Tevin Mack provided the Tigers with 10 combined points on the road against a top 5 team. That’s never going to get it done for this team. The complimentary pieces aren’t good enough to make up the points. It’s as simple as that.

Clemson is sitting at 10-9 and their NCAA Tournament hopes are on life support. Syracuse is looking to pull the plug on the season tonight. A win against the Orange keeps faint hopes alive. A loss dooms the Tigers. If you want to avoid must win games at the end of January, don’t lose to Yale and South Carolina in December.

This is going to be an interesting stylistic challenge for the Tigers. In theory, this team is set up to attack the 2-3 zone better than some of Brownell’s other recent outfits, but that’s just in theory, we shall see what it looks like in practice.

I’m not optimistic.


Probable Starters

PG - #11 - Joseph Girard III - FR - 6’1, 180 - 11.9 PTS, 2.8 AST

SG - #35 - Buddy Boeheim - SO - 6’6, 195 - 16.2 PTS, 2.2 AST

SF - #33 - Elijah Hughes - JR - 6’6, 215 - 19.2 PTS, 4 AST

PF - #34 - Bourama Sidibe - JR - 6’10, 210 - 5.4 PTS, 6 REB

PF - #21 - Marek Dolezaj - JR - 6’10, 185 - 10.2 PTS, 9 REB

Key Bench Player

SF - #1 - Quincy Guerrier - FR - 6’7, 220 - 6.1 PTS, 3.8 REB


Syracuse looks like...well...Syracuse. They’re a team made up of long, slender athletes that can shoot a little. This season, unlike most, sees the Orange offense carrying the vaunted 2-3 zone.

According to Kenpom, they run the 20th most efficient offense in the country. They shoot 35.5% from deep and 51.8% inside the arc. They’re not a great offensive rebounding team and they want to slow the game down.

Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim are their go to players on offense.

Boeheim is deadly from 3, shooting a robust 40% from deep. He put up 21 in his last outing against Pitt, including a 4-8 performance from deep. Overall he’s cracked 20 points in 3 of his last 4 games. Clemson can’t over help (they will) and leave him open to stroke spot up 3’s because he will hit them all night long. He’s 6’6, subsequently, you can’t close out late, because low, late closeouts don’t bother his shot. The Tigers have to try and chase him off the 3 point line and make him get his points from inside the arc. Much easier said than done.

Hughes struggled against Pitt, shooting 4-13, and going 0-4 from deep. Don’t read too much into that though, because on the whole, he’s been a consistent performer and stat stuffer for the Orange. His 26 point outburst, where he went 4-9 from 3, on the road against Notre Dame last week was crucial in the Syracuse victory. He’s a long, strong athlete that can beat you from deep or drive the ball into the heart of your defense and either kick out to shooters, or finish at the rim. Essentially, he’s a more consistent Tevin Mack, which is interesting, because I expect Mack to draw this defensive assignment early. Clemson has to keep him contained off the dribble, and make him shoot 3’s. That’s much easier said than done.


It’s time for Clemson’s bi-annual struggle against the vaunted 2-3 zone. This year, maybe things will be different, because statistically speaking, this isn’t a vintage Boeheim defense.

Don’t get me wrong, Cuse is still loaded with skinny, long armed defenders that make driving to the basket near impossible. They still do a good job of harassing entry passes and force you to move the ball around the perimeter in what looks like a shot clock long game of keep away, but they’re hemorrhaging 3 point shots.

Basketball is a miss or make game, and teams have been making more than they’ve been missing from deep against the 2-3 this year. 41% of their opponents points have come on 3 point baskets, that’s second worst in the nation. To compound matters, when teams do miss 3’s they’re having a hard time rebounding. 30% of missed shots against Syracuse end up in offensive rebounds. The easiest way to get the ball in the paint is to miss a shot and score on a put back. There it is, there’s the formula.

This game comes down to Clemson’s ability to hit 3’s and rebound their misses. If they shoot a decent percentage and punish them on the glass, they can win. If they can’t shoot, this is going to be a long, frustrating game. In theory, this Clemson team is a tough match up for the Orange. Every player on the court and shoot, and Aamir Simms is a monster on the offensive glass. The Tigers will need their shooters to hit shots. If Hunter Tyson has another 3 point outburst in his back pocket, it’s time to pull it out. Alex Hemenway got some burn against Louisville, and the 3 point specialists deep range could be come in handy if he can play enough defense to stay on the floor. Tevin Mack has enough length to totally disregard close outs when he’ s got an open 3.

It’s a miss or make game, and Clemson is in desperate need of some makes.



Clemson 68 - Syracuse 67


Clemson 56 - Syracuse 65

I hope I’m wrong, but I lack faith in our ability to attack the zone.