Syracuse puts its five-game win streak on the line when it travels to play Clemson (7:00 p.m. ET / RSN) on Tuesday. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Bierman and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
BRAD BIERMAN (Season Record 2-1): What a difference a month makes. As the year and decade turned to 2020, there was apprehension amongst those residing in Orange Nation over an 8-5 start to the first two months of the season.
A 0-for-2 beginning to Jan. ACC play certainly didn’t help matters, and raised plenty of questions if the 50-year streak of Orange winning seasons was in peril.
Then Professor Boeheim did what he does best heading into the meat of conference play; he watched animatedly from the sideline analyzing in detail the results of his repetitive lectures at the Melo Center over three months’ time (plus the Italy trip), then sent his class out on a road trip to Virginia.
A streak of hot shooting in overtime silenced the partisan home crowd and produced perhaps the season’s pivotal moment with the overtime win against the Cavaliers, taking one back from the Nov. opening defeat to UVA, and setting the five-game winning streak in motion to tonight’s test at Clemson.
There’s no way the Tigers will come out like they did at Louisville last Saturday in an eventual 80-62 rout. The Cardinals went on a scorching 20-0 run in the first-half blistering the nets from three-point range while ringing up 47-points, while Clemson was missing its shots.
While hot shooting in OT carried the Orange at Virginia, it’s been increased scoring in the paint and from multiple sources that has made the ‘Cuse a different team, along with enough zone defense and Boeheim’s coaching in late game situations that now has SU in fourth place in the standings.
We think that trend will continue against Clemson, a back-and-forth game coming down to the final possessions in the last 2:00, with Syracuse making its shots (Elijah Hughes and Joe Girard), and Clemson missing its chances (Clyde Trapp and Aamir Simms) in an Orange 77-73 victory over the Tigers.
WES CHENG (Season Record 10-2): Before we get to Syracuse’s game against Clemson, it’s worth pointing out that this Tigers basketball team has accomplished more in a four-day stretch of conference play than perhaps any other team in history.
On Jan. 11, Clemson made program history, defeating North Carolina 79-76, which was the first time the Tigers had won in Chapel Hill in 60 attempts.
Only a few days later on Jan. 14, Clemson rocked the basketball world again, this time knocking off No. 3 Duke on their home floor, 79-72. It was the biggest upset in Tigers history since they toppled then-No. 1 North Carolina in 2001.
That was the good news for Clemson this season. The bad has been wildly inconsistent play that resulted in losses in six in seven games, including an embarrassing 54-45 loss to Yale in December.
Since its upset of Duke, Clemson has lost on the road to NC State, won at home against Wake Forest, and gotten throttled at Louisville. KenPom ranks them 84th overall with an above-average offense (49) and a struggling offense (164).
Syracuse typically thrives on defense in games like these. The Tigers average almost as many assists (13.3) as turnovers (12.3), and don’t shoot the ball particularly well, shooting 42.8 percent from the field and 32.1 from downtown.
But during the Orange’s five-game win streak, SU has won on the road in three games by a combined 12 points. Clemson has also had its run of bad luck this year, and currently ranks 261st in KenPom’s luck rating. Add that to this being a road game, and I think the law of averages catches up to Syracuse, with the Tigers gritting out a 67-65 win.