Syracuse plays its regular season finale when it travels to Clemson on Saturday for a noon tip. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Brad Bierman and Steve Auger give their predictions below.
BRAD BIERMAN (Season Record: 3-2): Since Syracuse entered the ACC in 2013-14, it has finished with conference records of 14-4, 9-9 twice, 10-8, and 8-10 last year, before winning for the first time in the ACC Tournament and going on a 3-0 NCAA run then eventually edged by Duke in the Sweet 16.
A win in Saturday’s regular season finale at Clemson (12:00 p.m. ET / CBS) would lock up finishing 6th in the standings with an 11-7 ACC mark, end the regular season 20-11 overall, and complete a season sweep of the Tigers.
Think about it; 11 victories is something the ‘Cuse has only eclipsed once before now in its sixth ACC season. The conference has been the strongest in the nation with arguably three of the top five teams, and SU has gone 1-3 against that top trio Duke, N. Carolina and Virginia, and 1-2 against the next group of teams it’s bunched with – Florida State, Virginia Tech and Louisville. A win over Clemson (18-12, 8-9) would give the Orange a 6-3 road record in league play.
In the team’s first meeting at the Dome on Jan. 9, it was a 61-53 slog with the Tigers scoring their second lowest point total of the season (43 against Virginia a game later in a loss). SU didn’t shoot a lot better, sort of a microcosm for both teams in 2019, but turned on the full court press when it needed to shake up the pace of play and scored 20 points off 17 Tigers turnovers.
Syracuse comes off its most dismal half of basketball the entire season Monday night, after ending the Dome portion of the schedule with the sour orange taste of a 26 point loss to No. 2 Virginia. The ‘Cuse players have had the rest of the week to figure out the game plan for another road win, then the “one-and-done” games take over.
Clemson comes into the finale clearly on the NCAA bubble after escaping with a road victory at Notre Dame Wednesday night 64-62, the first win in four tries for head coach Brad Brownell, an Indiana native, at South Bend.
We like giving Jim Boeheim a couple of days to prepare to get his team to respond, and in a close ending with Clemson’s post season NCAA or NIT destination likely riding on the outcome, we see the Orange gutting out a 72-68 victory over the Tigers.
STEVE AUGER (Season Record 3-0): So, I guess Virginia is still a little bent about Malachi Richardson? *Shrugs*
Fresh off a 79-53 thumping courtesy of the Cavaliers and their long-distance onslaught, Syracuse will attempt to wrap up the six-seed in the ACC Tournament with a road win at Clemson.
The Orange is tied with Louisville at 11-17 in league play. Syracuse owns the head-to-head tie-breaker thanks to a 69-49 Dome victory. It’s unlikely that Syracuse will slip to the seven-seed as Louisville closes on the road against the same Virginia team who just sank an astonishing 18-of-25 from the 3-point line.
Syracuse and Clemson met earlier this year at the Dome, a 61-53 rock fight. I mean, an Orange win.
One key to victory might be Buddy Boeheim. The freshman was just getting his feet wet in ACC play when these teams met back in early January. Boeheim logged a scant five minutes of action and missed his only shot, a 3-point attempt.
Since that game, Boeheim has been found his rhythm from deep. The coach’s son has connected on 43 percent of his shots from beyond the arc; a 31-of-72 clip.
The bottom line is Syracuse needs to shoot well to win, especially on the road. And if it is a one-possession game at the end, Tyus Battle knows how to handle Clemson. Still, I think Syracuse falls just short in a close game, 72-68.