They had, after all, been to the NCAA Tournament each of the previous three seasons.
"It just didn't turn out to be the kind of season we all hoped it would be," Smith said.
Next season will raise similar questions as did this past season. With Smith and Young gone, coach Brad Brownell will enter his third season relying on an unproven backcourt.
Forwards Devin Booker and Milton Jennings return to provide some stability and experience up front, but the Tigers will have an extremely youthful roster, and that may make posting a sixth consecutive .500 season or better in ACC play a challenge.
The biggest void for Clemson this season was the lack of a "go-to" guy, particularly late in games. The Tigers lost five ACC games by four points or fewer, which underscores their need for a reliable clutch player.
"It's just part of the problem we had with this team," Brownell said. "To be honest with you, 60 or 70 percent of the teams in the country are basically in the same shape.
"You need a guy who can make plays for you down the stretch. To be frank about it, I just don't know that we have that guy on the roster right now -- a guy who can score at the end of games, get fouled and hurt you from the line or get double-teamed and make the pass to the open guy for the shot."
The search for that guy will continue next season. Freshmen Devin Coleman and K.J. McDaniels both showed flashes of potential last season, but the team never got back-to-back double-figure scoring games from any of its five freshmen, so there's plenty of room for improvement.
"They're not ready," Brownell said. "They haven't played consistently. But this season's over, and they have from now until November to get ready."
NOTES: Clemson was 16-15 overall and did manage an 8-8 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. That gave the Tigers a school-record fifth consecutive season with a .500 record or better in league play.
* Freshman G Devin Coleman finished the season playing his best ball. The Philadelphia native scored just two points in 14 nonconference games but really began to show his potential in ACC play, scoring 55 points in 14 league games. He capped the season with 15 points in the Tigers' ACC tournament loss, leading the team in scoring for the first time. He made six of 10 shots and played a career-high 26 minutes.
FINAL RECORD: 16-15, 8-8, seventh place in ACC.
2011-12 SEASON RECAP: Clemson's season was hurt early, with close home losses to the College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina. The Tigers lost to archrival South Carolina, which won just two SEC games this season, then were unimpressive during the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, dropping two of three games against inferior competition. Clemson opened the ACC season with a 20-point victory over Florida State, but a string of close defeats kept the team from reaching its potential -- and postseason play.
Clemson did manage to wind up seventh in the ACC, thanks to wins in five of their final seven regular-season games, but their tournament stay was a brief one. The Tigers lost a first-round game to No. 10 seed Virginia Tech, 68-63, on March 8.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We squeezed a lot out of the turnip this year." -- Clemson coach Brad Brownell.
THE GOOD NEWS: More help is on the way. Brad Brownell has signed his second straight five-player class, and it includes Jaron Blossomgame, a 6-foot-7 wing from Alpharetta, Ga., who is regarded a four-star, top-100 prospect by most recruiting services. The class also includes 6-11 center Landry Nnoko and 6-foot guard Jordan Roper, who is generally regarded as the top senior in South Carolina and was the Class AAAA Player of the Year.
THE BAD NEWS: Although Clemson loses just two senior starters, a gap in recruiting between the Oliver Purnell's resignation and Brad Brownell's hiring will result in the Tigers being extremely youthful in 2012-13. Ten of the team's players will be either freshmen or sophomores, and that's usually not conducive to success in the ACC, particularly when the backcourt is where the bulk of the youth will be.
KEY RETURNEES: Forwards Devin Booker and Milton Jennings both will return for their final season as proven commodities. Booker, 6-foot-8, averaged 10.5 points and 7.0 rebounds, while Jennings posted averages of 9.7 and 5.6, respectively. But the key will be how members of the rising sophomore class fare when thrust into starting roles. By season's end, guard Devin Coleman and forward K.J. McDaniels had emerged as the two most likely candidates to earn the most playing time entering the 2012-13 season.
Tigers keep searching for go-to guy
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