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Syracuse closes out a stretch of three consecutive home games hosting Clemson on Tuesday, aiming to prevent a fifth loss in its last six games and seventh in the last 10. Beat writers are split on whether Syracuse can hand Clemson its 3rd straight loss. The Orange’s most recent defeat came against Florida State on Jan. 15 when they blew a 28-18 first-half lead, fell behind by seven points midway through the second frame and ultimately lost following a dunk and two free throws by FSU in the final seconds.
The Tigers, who’ve lost two consecutive games and three of their last four, are led by P.J. Hall’s 14.5 points per game, and the 6-foot-10 sophomore also ranks as the team’s third-best rebounder with an average of 5.8 per game.
Here’s what The Daily Orange’s beat writers think will happen when Syracuse (8-9, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) faces the Tigers (10-7, 2-4) at 9 p.m. in the Carrier Dome on Tuesday.
Andrew Crane (11-6)
(Briefly) back on track
Syracuse 80, Clemson 75
Even though the Tigers rank 15th in the country in 3-point shooting percentage, per KenPom, they’ve only shot 24.6% from beyond the arc in the last three games — two of which were losses, with the other game a five-point win over NC State. I think a strong start to the year offensively has helped mask some of Clemson’s recent struggles, and in those last three games, its adjusted offensive efficiency numbers were three of its four lowest totals of the season. The only one lower efficiency output came in the season opener, when Clemson scraped out an 11-point win against Presbyterian but only produced 64 points.
In most cases, I’d predict that playing Syracuse’s defense could serve as the exact solution that Clemson needs to get going offensively. And it definitely could, making this pick look ridiculous. But Clemson’s head coach Brad Brownell admitted on Monday’s ACC Coaches Zoom that his 3-point defense is “probably not as good as it needs to be,” and I think that’ll be enough of a window for the Orange to pick up a win they desperately need. Look for Cole Swider to continue his recent surge behind the arc, with his success opening up looks for Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard III, too.
Roshan Fernandez (10-7)
3-point defense … again
Clemson 74, Syracuse 71
Clemson ranks 15th in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (38.4%), per KenPom. Syracuse has been struggling recently against teams that didn’t specialize in 3-point shooting — such as Florida State and Wake Forest — so a matchup with Clemson might not be favorable for SU. I’m not convinced the Orange have a solution to their porous 3-point defense yet. Clemson also has a balanced offense that features four scorers averaging double-digits, an even more concerning look for an SU defense that’s slipped to 225th in the rankings, according to KenPom (I think Syracuse has fared slightly better against teams like Pitt that have one more dominant offensive player who the Orange can focus on shutting down).
Syracuse has had a rough stretch of close losses — its last five defeats have been decided by a combined 18 points — but I don’t think the Orange match up well with Clemson. SU hasn’t shown enough consistency on defense yet, so for the time being, I’ll pick the Orange to drop another close game.
Gaurav Shetty (10-7)
Clemson 78 Syracuse 72
I know it’s still January, but Syracuse is in unprecedented territory under head coach Jim Boeheim. Under. 500 this late in the season, it might be time to hit the panic button. The Orange are 1-4 in their past five games, and with Duke looming on the calendar this weekend, a win over Clemson would at least provide some kind of buffer to what will likely be a loss to the Blue Devils. Still, despite Clemson coming to town with two straight ACC losses, the Tigers do one thing very well: shoot 3-pointers.
Last week, I pointed out how FSU came to Syracuse shooting the ball poorly, but evidently that didn’t matter. The Tigers haven’t shot the 3 particularly well as of late, but for the season they rank 15th in 3-point shooting percentage on KenPom. If teams are ailing from 3, then Syracuse’s zone seems to be the cure, which is why I see Clemson draining Syracuse into further uncertainty.
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