Syracuse will wrap up the 2017-18 basketball regular season on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Carrier Dome against Clemson. Ahead of the game, here are three things to look out for.
CAN SYRACUSE BOUNCE BACK DEFENSIVELY?
Syracuse’s defense struggled in an 85-70 loss to Boston College on Wednesday. Though SU came in allowing just 63.8 ppg (12th in the country), the 2-3 zone allowed too many open looks at the 3-point line. The Eagles shot 14-27 from distance and 48.1 percent overall.
Clemson has excellent outside shooters of its own, with Marcquise Reed averaging 16.2 points per game on 36.7 shooting from downtown, and Gabe DeVoe averaging 13.3 on 41.3 percent shooting. Clemson did lose second leading scorer and senior Donte Grantham to an ACL injury earlier in the year, and with it went his 14.2 points and 41.9 percent shooting from downtown.
CAN SYRACUSE KEEP THE EAGLE SHOOTERS IN CHECK?
Syracuse got good to great performances from its ‘Big 3’ against the Eagles, with Tyus Battle (29 points), Oshae Brissett (18 points and nine rebounds), and Frank Howard (17 points and five assists) each in double figures.
But the trio got little offensive help from their teammates, with Marek Dolezaj going scoreless after taking zero shots, Paschal Chukwu scoring only four points, and Mayy Moyer with two points on two free throws.
That was in direct contrast to Syracuse’s earlier meeting with the Eagles, with both Chukwu (14) and Dolezaj (12) were in double figures.
Syracuse is going to need more from its supporting cast in order to upset the Tigers.
WHAT IS THE NCAA TOURNAMENT IMPACT?
Syracuse lost to an Eagles team that was ranked in the ESPN RPI in the 90s and guaranteed it would have a losing record in ACC play for the first time since the Orange joined the conference.
A win against Clemson, ranked No. 8 in the RPI, would certainly help a great deal, but at this point, the Orange will need not only this win, but a deep run in the ACC Tournament to have a realistic shot at an NCAA bid.