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Clemson Basketball Preview: Clemson Travels to Syracuse

Proceed With Caution!

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

When: Tuesday 8pm

Where: Carrierdome in Syracuse


Those of you folks still deciding to follow this basketball season know that things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse. The Tigers looked like they were going to make the BC game the “get right” game it should have been, racing out to a 23 point lead in the first half, before inexplicably falling apart and blowing it. Sure, BC made some improbable plays and shots, but when your program hallmark is grit and toughness and defense, scoring in the mid to high 60s should beat a team of BC’s ilk 100 times out of 100.

Syracuse is on the struggle bus themselves, sitting at just 8-9 overall and 2-4 in the ACC. They can still bomb it with the best of them with Buddy Boeheim leading the way once again. They even have another Boeheim kid to throw out there thanks to Jimmy Boeheim’s transfer from Cornell to Syracuse for his senior season. They still play just 7 guys and still play 2-3 zone all game. Hopefully Clemson is a little more ready to face a zone this time than when Notre Dame’s relatively poor defense used a zone to throttle the Tigers. Syracuse is an abysmal 228th in the country according to KenPom’s defensive ratings allowing teams to shoot it at a very high clip and offensive rebound at even a higher clip than that if they do miss. This is not to say Clemson’s lineup is particularly suited to exploit these things. P.J. Hall and Hunter Tyson are not 100% and the Tigers simply cannot afford either guy not being full go. Naz Bohannon is a soldier and has the kind of game to bother what Syracuse does, but relying on him to do a lot of the heavy lifting is not a recipe for success.

Clemson’s guard play has once again been the biggest culprit of all. Brad Brownell has yet to sign a true stud perimeter player out of high school. Gabe DeVoe developed into a very nice piece his senior season, but it took him a full four years to develop into that. He was supplemented by high level players acquired via transfer. Al-Amir Dawes is streaky, as evidenced by his torrid start and ice cold finish to the BC game. Brownell threw Alex Hemenway out there in the starting lineup since Nick Honor has been struggling so much to contribute offensively, but Hemenway had one of his worst shooting games of his career. If the guard play doesn’t improve, and soon, the wheels could easily come off the year’s team.

The BC, Syracuse, Pittsburgh stretch should have been a great shot for 3 wins and momentum before facing Duke. It is easier to swallow losing on the road to a Notre Dame team playing its best ball of the season and on a hot streak. Losing at home to BC who is well outside KenPom’s top 100 is something most fans just can’t accept. Local product Brevin Galloway, brother of departed Clemson TE Brandon Galloway, provided the final insult by going 5-10 on 3 pointers and 18 points.

If Clemson hopes to win this game, it must limit Buddy Boeheim’s potential to explode the way we saw him do in the NCAA tournament last season. That’s a tough task when you have smaller guards beyond David Collins to throw at him. Clemson has to find a way to play inside/out vs. the zone and hurt the Orange on the offensive glass the way most teams who have beaten them have done.

KenPom calls for Syracuse to win 78-76. I can’t call for Clemson to win this game the way they played the second half against BC and the way they looked against a 2-3 zone from Notre Dame. I say Syracuse 77-Clemson 64.