The people at College and Magnolia really love Auburn sports. Bless their hearts, they have to wear orange a lot and deal with Bama nut jobs more often than anyone in the country.
But they’re currently watching some of the best basketball in the SEC. Bruce Pearl’s recruiting is finally paying dividends on The Plains as his Tigers have raced to an 11-2 start and the No. 12 spot in the national rankings.
Wednesday night brings them to Oxford to kick off what we’ve billed as the most important week of the Rebels’ season. Given its importance, we wanted to get an inside look at what’s keyed Auburn’s success thus far. So we got with the gents at SB Nation’s Auburn site, College and Magnolia, to ask a few questions.
My questions are in bold.
1) Auburn’s two losses this season were to Duke and NC State. Were there any common themes in those games?
The two common denominators in Auburn’s losses were slow starts and struggling from three-point range. Auburn has started fast in most of their games this year but when they haven’t, it’s been a struggle. It took nearly nine minutes to hit double figures in points against Duke and 11.5 minutes against the Wolfpack.
In the Duke game, Auburn shot 11-of-32 from three and, to Duke’s credit, they did a great job of keeping Auburn at arm’s length. Every time Auburn would make a run in the game and cut Duke’s lead down to six or eight, Duke had a response to push the lead back to 10 or 12. The Tigers fought in that game until the end, which made the final score look respectable, but in reality, Duke led by 10-13 points for a good portion of that game.
As for the NC State game, Auburn’s starting five combined for just 28 of the team’s 71 points. It took nearly 26 minutes for Auburn to make their first three of the game and the team finished 5-of-25. That was a frustrating game from the sense that Auburn was dominating in the paint, particularly early in the second half, but once a pair of threes fell for Auburn, they started settling for threes again and that, along with poor three-point defense, did Auburn in that night. NC State went 10-of-22 from three-point range in that game.
2) Do you feel like Bruce Pearl’s sweatiness correlates to success or demise?
Bruce sweats... a lot!! Auburn could be up by 50 and he would still be sweating like crazy. I think you see it more when he’s arguing with the officials or trying to get his players motivated when they need it. I know some coaches sit while they coach but that’s just something you don’t really see with Bruce. There’s no question that Bruce Pearl is very passionate and animated at what he does, which correlates to his sweatiness.
3.) How does the Marshall Henderson jersey popping GIF affect you and Auburn fans?
Looking back at this, it’s hard to believe this happened nearly six years ago. I personally think it’s hilarious, especially the older gentleman standing up from his court-side seat. (Now if this happened today, yeah I’d be pretty pissed off about it.) I talked about this with some of the other writers from College and Magnolia and they actually think it’s an amazing GIF. Auburn basketball was absolutely terrible during the Henderson days anyway and give Marshall credit, he made the play to win the game for Ole Miss that day. The kid had his moment and gave everyone a magical moment to remember him by.
4.) I’ve only really watched pieces of Auburn basketball games this season, but Austin Wiley really sticks out given he only plays 17 minutes per game. Why doesn’t Wiley get more minutes?
Wiley had a foot injury that forced him to miss most of the preseason and the season opener. Originally, the minutes at the center spot had been split fairly equally between him and Anfernee McLemore. Bruce brought Wiley in off the bench for the majority of non-conference play because the Tigers were consistently getting off to good starts in games and, in addition, Wiley hadn’t played for Auburn in about 20 months so this allowed Wiley to get better adapted to his role on this team. Wiley finally started for the first time against Murray State (after the NC State game) and played a season-high 26 minutes that day. Wednesday will be his third start of the year and I would expect Wiley to play at least 25 minutes a game going forward now that he’s settled into his role and Auburn makes a concerted effort to frequently get him the ball in the paint.
5.) Auburn is a top-15 team on the road in conference play in a mid-week game. Any chance for an Ole Miss upset win? What’s your final prediction?
When the schedule came out, most Auburn fans thought this would be a game that Auburn should win handily. Now, I’m honestly a little concerned for the reasons you’ve listed, plus, Auburn has played one game since December 22nd. This will be Auburn’s first game since December 29th, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Auburn had a slow start. I think it will be close for 40 minutes but I’ll go with Auburn in a 79-72 victory.
What do you think will happen Wednesday night? Comment or tweet @RedCupRebellion with your score prediction and also tell us why Newk’s whips ass compared to Mama Goldberg’s.