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How They Could Lose It All

Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page G10

In an interview early in the season, Clemson assistant Kevin Nickelberry said teams need to have "pros" to win in the ACC because of the level of competition faced each game. Clemson's problem is that outside of Sharrod Ford, the Tigers largely are composed of very young players, while the teams in the upper tier in the ACC feature numerous players who starred in the conference last season.

Roughly one-third of Clemson's scoring comes from four freshmen. Cliff Hammonds averages 30 minutes per game. The Cairo, Ga., native is one of the better freshmen in the conference. The young players have exuded a positive attitude throughout the season, telling reporters at the midway mark of the ACC schedule that they felt Clemson could have easily been 4-4 instead of 1-7. Freshman Sam Perry told the State (S.C.) that he was intent on helping to erase the "old Clemson attitude."

But energy and attitude cannot overcome youth. For the seventh consecutive season, the Tigers reached the midpoint of the ACC schedule with a 2-6 conference record or worse.

Clemson's weaknesses are too significant. The Tigers are among the worst shooting teams in the ACC, and conference opponents shoot nearly 50 percent against them. That combination likely will mean an early exit.

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