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Clemson Basketball: Syracuse Preview

The Tigers head north to face a mercurial Syracuse team.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse University


ACC: 6-6

Overall: 15-8

KenPom: 90

Clemson Game

Location: at Syracuse

Time: Noon EST

Channel: ESPN

Kenpom Style of Play

() = National Ranking per Kenpom


Adj. Efficiency: 108.3 (131)

Avg. Poss. Length: 16.8 (95)


Adj. Efficiency: 99.4 (54)

Avg. Poss. Length: 16 (6)


Adj. Tempo: 71.1 (36)

Kenpom 4 Factors

() = National Ranking per Kenpom


Effective FG%: 49.8 (211)

Turnover %: 16.6 (134)

Off. Reb. %: 25.3 (300)

FTA/FGA: 34.8 (129)


Effective FG%: 51.6 (241)

Turnover %: 20.6 (35)

Off. Reb. %: 31.6 (278)

FTA/FGA: 26.7 (42)

Syracuse on Defense

I normally start with offense, but Syracuse needs their defense in order for their offense to do its thing.

This isn’t Jimmy B’s Orange defense. Cuse will switch back and forth between an aggressive 3-2 zone and man-to-man defense. They give up points, but they also cause turnovers with their hyper-aggressive guards jumping passing lanes. When they sit in their 3-2 look, the wings sell out on any horizontal pass across the top of the key. If Clemson makes a lazy auto-wing entry pass, Syracuse will take it the other direction in a hurry.

Syracuse needs Clemson to cooperate on offense. They need the Tigers to play rushed and take bad, semi-open 3’s early in the clock. They want to turn this thing into a referendum on guard play and not let PJ and Ian dominate the game on the interior. In order to do that, they’re going to speed things way up on defense. According to KenPom, they have 3 of the top 100 players in the nation in regards to steal percentage, with 6’8”, 222-pound starting center Maliq Brown leading the way at 4.2%.

The Orange don’t have anyone capable of competing with PJ and Ian on the block. Their best hope is for PJ to decide he’s a shooting guard and gun it from the perimeter because I don’t see anyone capable of checking the 6’10”, 240-pound Clemson center if he decides to dominate the game in the paint.

Clemson’s guards need to play smart, not take the early contested 3, and attack the paint with Hall and Schieffelin until Syracuse yells uncle.

Syracuse on Offense

Judah Mintz runs the show for the Orange. The 6’4”, 185-pound guard is in the top 50 in usage rate in the nation at 30.8%(41). He’s joined by 6’4” shooting guard JJ Starling and 6’7” wing Chris Bell as the core of the offense.

Syracuse is still trying to find their legs after starting power forward Benny Williams was dismissed from the program last week. Losing the 6’9” Williams should force them to up the tempo even more on offense.

Syracuse wants to turn you over or force a miss and play in transition. They’re at their best when Mintz, Starling, and Bell are in open space and gunning. Things grind to a halt in the half court if they’re forced to run a set. Things tend to break down into late-clock isolations for one of their guards. Mintz is decent in the pick and roll and runs a killer pick and pop with Chris Bell on the wing. Clemson can’t get complacent when Bell is setting a pick because he’s ready to fire at a moment’s notice. He hit 8 of 10 3’s in their win against Louisville.

Starling played big minutes as a freshman at Notre Dame before transferring back home to New York. He’s averaging 13 points a game on the season but shoots at a high enough volume for an occasional big game. He put up 26 against NC State in one of their more impressive wins this season. Clemson will have to keep a handle on the ‘Cuse backcourt because Mintz, Starling, and Bell can all get hot in a hurry.

The best way to slow Syracuse down is to avoid turnovers, make buckets, and get back in transition on defense. If this game is played in the half court, Clemson wins. If it’s played in transition, Syracuse will be a problem.



Clemson - 76

Syracuse - 74

Confidence: 60%


Clemson - 77

Syracuse - 69

Clemson coming off win scares me, but they can’t continue to their cycle of winning every other game, can they?

PJ and Ian eat on the glass. Clemson has a couple of brain farts and will totally lose the thread on offense for at least one 10 minute period, but they have too much in the paint for the Cuse to handle without Williams. The Tigers pick up a road crucial road win.