It wasn’t pretty, but Syracuse picked up a critical quadrant 2 win on Wednesday evening, topping Clemson, 64-54.
Here are the key takeaways from the final matchup in the Dome this year:
A Senior Day unlike any other
On a year unlike any other, Wednesday afternoon’s matinee against Clemson was a Senior Day like any other. Seniors Marek Dolezaj, Bourama Sidibe, Nick Giancola, and Chris LaValle all got honored in a pregame ceremony at the Carrier Dome.
But unlike the normal tradition, the four players received their framed jerseys in front of empty seats, as New York has yet to allow back fans in sporting arenas as a result of COVID-19.
Perhaps what was odder was the fact that it actually might not have been the last time Dolezaj and Sidibe stepped on the Dome court in a Syracuse jersey.
Due to the pandemic-stricken season last year, the two have another year of eligibility.
It’s unclear which path each may choose.
Dolezaj has been a critical part of SU’s season, starting nearly every game at center while averaging 10.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
Sidibe, meanwhile, has only appeared in two games after hurting his knee in SU’s season opener against Bryant. He briefly appeared in SU’s first game against Clemson in February, but struggled in 11 minutes before needing to shut down again.
Hot-shooting and solid defense lead the way for the Orange
Neither team shot well, with the Orange shooting 37.5 percent from the field, and Clemson at 33.9. But the Orange received a sparkling performance from Alan Griffin, and that proved to be the difference.
Griffin finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and he knocked down 6-12 from downtown. Most of his damage came in the second half, as he scored 19 points, including three 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the half when the Orange jumped up by double digits.
Outside of Griffin, Syracuse was frigid from 3-point land, shooting a combined 4-20.
Defensively, the Orange contained Tigers big man Aamir Simms and enjoyed a rare solid performance on the glass, outrebounding Clemson 39-37.
Simms had 18 points and 11 rebounds in Syracuse’s loss to Clemson in February, but on Wednesday, he was held to a quiet six points and eight rebounds.
“We were able to guard the 3 without getting hurt down low which was big,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “This is a really good win. Other than the three weeks coming off a pause they’ve played the best in the ACC.”
Syracuse keeps their tournament hopes alive
Last week, Syracuse lost back-to-back Quadrant 1 road games against Georgia Tech and Duke, and were all but out of bubble contention for the NCAA tournament. But Syracuse is right back in the conversation with two big Q2 home wins against UNC and Clemson and the Orange conversation.
Syracuse’s (15-8, 9-7 ACC) hopes now in part depend on how Clemson and NC State finish the season.
The Wolfpack was 76th in the NET rankings on Wednesday, but defeated Notre Dame, which will likely move them back inside the top 75. The Orange should pick up a Q1 win as a result of beating NCST on the road in February. (Q1 wins are awarded to defeating top 75 NET teams on the road.)
As for the Tigers, they were 33 in NET on Wednesday, and will slip as a result of the loss. But if Clemson sneaks back into the top 30 in NET, the Orange will gain another Q1 win because home wins against the top 30 in NET are also awarded Q1 status.
Assuming that NCST’s win over Notre Dame is enough to move them back inside the top 75 in NET, this is how Syracuse’s resume stacks up:
- Q1: 1-6
- Q2: 4-1
- Q3: 7-1
- Q4: 3-0
The Orange are likely to get the No. 8 seed in the ACC tournament and would likely play Duke or NC State. That opening game will be a must-win, and Syracuse can punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament if it wins a second game against an elite ACC team (likely Florida State).
Regardless of what happens, Syracuse has plenty to play for in the ACC Tournament, which starts on Tuesday in Greensboro, NC.
“I don’t think we [the ACC] get enough attention this year,” Boeheim said. “We don’t have the great team this year, but we have a lot of good teams.”