Here are five things to keep an eye on in year-two under Brad Brownell:
1. Can Devin Booker and Milton Jennings take the next step?
Simply put, the biggest keys to Clemson's success season are these two juniors.
The only remaining pieces of Oliver Purnell's final signing class at Clemson, Booker and Jennings were productive contributors last year. But with Jerai Grant now playing pro ball in Australia, they'll have to help fill the void that he leaves behind in the low-post.
Booker, a 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward/center, averaged 8.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest last season. He played 24.3 minutes a game and started all but one as a sophomore. From the free-throw line, he shot 73 percent for the season but hit 24 for 28 during ACC play [86 percent].
Jennings, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward, was one of the team's most improved players last year. He averaged 8.3 points and 5.2 rebounds off the bench a season ago.
"They have to have big years. They just have to be consistent. I thought they both had several good games last year," Brownell said. "Now, as front-line players, you're counted on to be good every night. When you're not good, it makes it really difficult for us to win...they've got to play consistently well for us to be a good team."
2. Can Andre Young prosper without Demontez Stitt?
In October, Stitt was named as one of the best 25 players in the 100-year history of Clemson basketball.
He finished sixth in school history with 419 assists, and is the only Clemson player to start on four NCAA Tournament teams.
Over the last two seasons, Clemson was at its best with Young and Stitt on the floor at the same time. Young usually ran the point while Stitt was at the off guard spot. On the offensive end of the court, they played well off of each other's strengths.
Now, Young, who averaged 11.1 points last season, will be one of the focal points when opposing teams game plan against the Tigers' back-court.
"It's one of those things where he gets moved up the scouting report," Brownell said. "I'm sure last year, Demontez and Jerai, when you started the scouting report at Clemson, those were the two guys that people talked about. This year, Andre will be right there."
3. Where is Bobo?
Catalin Baciu arrived to Clemson as the No. 10 center prospect by Scout.com in the class of 2008. Since then, he's played 163 minutes in 44 games.
The 7-foot-2 center has averaged 1.3 points and 1.4 rebounds during his three-year career.
As a junior, Baciu logged 78 minutes. He played only 85 over the course of his first two seasons.
Baciu is one of four returning low-post players and it's possible that he could play considerably more than he has over the last three seasons combined.
"The difficult thing that you're asking Bobo to do -- Bobo hasn't played consistent minutes," Brownell said. "He had a few games last year where he got to play some. That's a lot different than being a guy who gives you 15 minutes every game and is being productive. It's time for him to make that step."
4. The freshmen
Brownell's first full signing class didn't wow the Scout.com recruiting analysts. Four-star power forward Bernard Sullivan was the only nationally ranked player [No. 87 overall] among the five that inked with Clemson.
But that's not to say Brownell didn't add several pieces that could develop into solid players.
Three-star point guard T.J. Sapp has drawn favorable comparisons to Stitt. Three-star wing K.J. McDaniels is incredibly athletic with plenty of upside. He, like Sapp and Sullivan, are projected to log plenty of meaningful minutes this season.
Lefty guard Devin Coleman is a shooter who could help take some of the perimeter focus off of Young. Rod Hall, a hard-nosed point guard, fits the mold that Brownell looks for on the defensive end of the floor.
All five freshmen will have a chance to contribute.
"The kids we recruited are great kids. They want to do what's right. They're very respectful of the other players. They're trying to learn as quickly as possible," Brownell said.
5. Another run to the Dance?
In his first-year at Clemson, Brownell continued the Tigers' run of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, making it four in a row.
Clemson won its NCAA First Four game over UAB before getting knocked out by West Virginia in the Second Round.
Last year's senior duo of Stitt and Grant combined to average 26.9 points and 11 rebounds per game. Now that they're gone, the Tigers will have to rely on a relatively inexperienced team.
Tanner Smith, Young, Booker and Jennings have all played significant time through the course of their careers. One of the other two returning lettermen, Bryan Narcisse, played more minutes last season than he did in his first two years combined.
Like last year, Clemson was picked to finish seventh in the ACC by the media. North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Virginia, Miami and Virginia Tech were voted ahead of Clemson for the 2011-12 season.
"I think there's a good, positive feeling about what's happening in the basketball program, especially after last year" Brownell said. "I think people appreciated how hard our guys played. I felt like we got the most out of our ability, which is what we're trying to do."
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