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Clemson Basketball - Syracuse Preview

Clemson needs Cuse to cooperate on Saturday.

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Clemson (11-5 - ACC 5-5) vs Syracuse (10-5 - ACC 4-4)

Saturday, February 6th

2 PM EST - ACC Network

Clemson, South Carolina - Brad’s House of Ill Repute and Other Oddities

I’m changing up my preview style for the rest of the season, because Clemson basketball boils down to a few immutable truths.

  1. Just when you think they have turned the corner, they slam into the wall.
  2. Just when you think they’ve slammed into the wall hard enough to disable their car, they start trying to turn the corner again.

The reality of the situation is that Clemson is a talented, but flawed team that needs opponents to play into their hands.

For Clemson to win most of the following parameters must be met.


  1. Aamir Simms has to show up.
  2. Al-Amir Dawes, Nick Honor, or Clyde Trapp have to score in double digits.
  3. One more player has to make a surprise appearance.
  4. Clemson can’t commit live ball turnovers.

Against North Carolina, Simms wasn’t great, but his 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists was sufficient. I think y’all are right, Simms isn’t the scorer I want him to be, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have an important impact on every game. In this case, he led the team in assists, was second in rebounding and played 36 minutes. I’ll take that stat line, especially the minutes portion.

Trapp was the guard who got going against UNC. He put up 14 points and pulled down 9 rebounds. Dawes wasn’t terrible with 7 points (although he had 3 turnovers) and Honor chipped in another 6. 27 points out of that group will get the job done most nights.

Hunter Tyson ended up being the random guy who got hot and led the team in scoring with 16 points. If Clemson could get close to that sort of production from Tyson on a nightly basis, they would be much easier to predict, but that hasn’t happened yet, and I don’t anticipate it happening anytime soon.

The Tigers only committed 7 turnovers which kept North Carolina out of transition and allowed Clemson’s smothering defense to actually smother the Tar Heels.

The Opponent

  1. They can’t shoot better above 40% from 3.
  2. They can’t get Simms into foul trouble early.
  3. They can’t have a random guy come off the bench and go for 20+

This is pretty simple. Clemson isn’t good enough on offense to deal with a barrage of 3 pointers. The trouble is that Clemson gives up a ton of good 3 point looks because their defense collapses into the paint at the slightest hint of a dribble drive. They need opponents to miss open 3’s. North Carolina misses open 3’s.

Simms has been a foul machine in the 1st quarter of games. If given the opportunity, he will commit 2 fouls within the first 10 minutes and sit the rest of the half. Clemson did a decent job of keeping Simms out of bad situations on defense and he didn’t commit any stupid charges or fouls going after rebounds.

Sharpe for North Carolina came off the bench and scored 16 points, but the Tigers managed to tamp down the rest of the Tar Heals. Caleb Love went 1-6 from deep and 2-10 on the game, which helped.

In Summary

Clemson met their win parameters and North Carolina cooperated by not punishing them from 3 or making a concerted effort to get Simms in foul trouble. Sharpe got hot off the bench, but the Tar Heels didn’t shoot well enough as a team for it to matter.

Subsequently, Clemson won.


This isn’t a great shooting Syracuse team, but as we’ve seen this year, that doesn’t particularly matter. As long as the other team has players capable of shooting from deep, they can get hot against Clemson’s defense.

3 Players to Watch

#0 - Alan Griffin

#11 - Joesph Girard

#35 - Buddy Boeheim

These are the shooters for Syracuse. If Clemson can hold this group under 40%, they’ll have a good shot at winning. This season, Griffin and Girard have been the main deep threats, but Boeheim has proven himself as a shooter in the past, and again, Clemson is a good team to get right against from deep.

Simms Trouble

Marek Dolezaj could potentially be an issue for Clemson. He’s a rail thin, 6’10 center, but plays hard and averages 10 points a game. He’s got long arms and is mobile enough to give Simms trouble on the post. If I’m Cuse, I feed him early and try and get Aamir off the court, even if that means getting down early. Clemson will go on a scoring drought at some point. Getting Simms in foul trouble is more important than the scoreboard in the first half.

Surprise Points

You could probably throw a dart at the Syracuse bench roster and have a better shot at predicting which bench player will try and go off against the Tigers for a career high, but my money is on Kadary Richmond. He’s coming off a 14 point game against NC State and the 4* freshman wing out of Brooklyn has the talent to hurt the Tigers from the wing. He hasn’t been great away from home, but that doesn’t seem to matter with the Tigers.



This concerns me. They are going to invite Simms to beat them from deep. He usually takes the invitation when offered, and that doesn’t usually work out. He needs to be the guy in the heart of the zone making plays and not drifting around the perimeter chucking with the guards.

The number of 3 point attempts by Simms will tell be an important stat to keep your eye on in this game. I would like to see no more than 4. Give me an efficient 12-15 point scoring game from the big man and 4-6 assists and the Tigers will be cooking with gas.

Pick a guard, any guard

I’m going to go with Nick Honor as the Clemson guard who needs to go off from deep in this game. Syracuse is going to play their 2-3 zone and haven’t been good at defending the 3. Honor seems like he’s due for a game. It could just as easily be Dawes. I don’t think this is a good match up for Trapp because it’s tough to drive and score on Syracuse.

Surprise Appearance

Clemson recruited Alex Hemenway for these types of games. The 2-3 zone will give him room to set up and bomb away from 3. He needs to pay it off by hitting 3-5 bombs. Hunter Tyson would be my second pick for the same reason, and I like his height shooting against the zone, but he went off last game, making it high doubtful that he does it twice in a row.


Sigh, this one has me chewing my fingernails. Clemson loves to make lazy passes around the perimeter that lead to fast break points. Syracuse loves to bait you into lazy passes and then jump into the passing lane.

Clemson’s guards also have a bad habit of trying to drive it from the wing and then trying to pass it across the zone. Syracuse loves it when you do that and will get their hands into the passing lanes.

Crisp, intentional passes around the perimeter and avoiding the urge to pass across (or through) the zone should help lead the Tigers to victory.



Clemson 68 - Syracuse 66


Clemson 64 - Syracuse 59

I think Clemson gets enough scoring from deep and Syracuse struggles to shoot on the road, but I could be totally wrong.