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Clemson Basketball Hosts Syracuse, Hopes to Halt Collapse

The Tigers host the Syracuse Orange in a must-win game.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse 16-11 (9-7) at Clemson 19-8 (11-5)
Time: Wednesday, 7:00pm
Location: Littlejohn Coliseum - Clemson, SC

The Tigers were 18-4 (10-1) and we were talking about a potential path to an ACC regular season championship. Virginia was still the favorite, but it didn’t seem absurd that Clemson could capture their second ever conference crown. Since then, the Tiger have lost four of five and must beat Syracuse for any of the three remaining games to matter at all.

Syracuse hasn’t been great. They’re 16-11 (9-7) and coming off a 22-point home loss to Duke. Syracuse boasts two guards that can put the ball in the basket. Senior Joseph Girard III leads the team in scoring with 17.0 points per game. He shoots an impressive 38.8% from three and has 78 three-pointers on the season. That’s 17 more than Clemson’s leader, Hunter Tyson (61). Judah Mintz is their other guard. He does more of his damage inside the 3-point arc. He averages 15.7 points per game while adding 4.5 assists per game. Finally, Jesse Edwards is their post-presence. The 6-foot-11 senior is their third-leading scorer with 14.0 points per game while adding 10.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.

Clemson doesn’t have anyone that averages 17.0 points or 4.5 assists, or 10.2 rebounds, or 2.8 blocks. What Clemson has on Syracuse is depth. After those top three players, there is a statistical drop-off for ‘Cuse. They don’t have any other player averaging 7 points or more. Clemson has five such players. In fact, those three players all average 32+ minutes per game while nobody else averages more than 22 minutes.

The beauty of Syracuse’s 2-3 defensive zone is that your players don’t have to run around chasing players on defense. That allows them to stay fresh and play more minutes without being excessively fatigued. It is a tried and true formula that has been proven to work quite well for them. The Tigers will need a complete effort to win this one. Fortunately, they’ve been very good at home.

If the Tigers can beat Syracuse, they will keep their narrow path to the NCAA tournament open. With a win on Wednesday, they’d need to win at NC State or Virginia, take care of business against Notre Dame, win an ACC tournament game, and then cross their fingers. With a loss, they’d need to win all three of their remaining games, which KenPom projects at a less than 5% chance of happening. They’d likely still need an ACC tournament win. This is the last stand for Clemson basketball.