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Before the Game

Before the Game: Auburn @ Vanderbilt

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Game Details:

  • When: Saturday, February 16 @ 11 am CT
  • Where: Memorial Gymnasium, Nashville, TN
  • How to Watch: ESPNU, espn.com, ESPN App

Team Spotlights:

  • Auburn:

    • Ranked #27 in the AP poll sitting at 16-8 overall and 5-6 in the SEC
    • Auburn has lost 2 games in a row after blowing a double digit lead at LSU on Saturday and losing at home to Ole Miss on Wednesday.
    • The Tigers are a high scoring team when they are making their shots and getting out in transition, but they have struggled when they’ve had to consistently run a half court offense.
    • On the interior, Auburn is undersized without Center Austin Wiley, who is very slowly returning for injury. His minutes increased over the last few games, but he is still having very little impact on games.
    • Auburn is led by its experienced backcourt, which decided to not show up to the home game against Ole Miss and struggles to score the ball on the road.
    • Auburn has been much worse on the road this year, struggling to shoot and to defend. They have only won one true road game this year (@ TAMU who is absolutely awful).
  • Vanderbilt:

    • Vanderbilt is no where near the AP poll at 9-15 on the year and winless in the SEC (0-11).
    • The Commodores have been as bad as can be in the SEC this year and are still searching for their first win.
    • Vanderbilt’s best player was 5 star freshman point guard Darius Garland until Garland was injured in November and declared out for the season. The loss of this projected lottery pick had really hamstrung the Commodores.
    • They may be winless in the SEC, but Vanderbilt plays teams much closer than their record shows. They held UK to 56 points. They lost to USC by 3. They lost to #1 ranked UT by 5 in overtime. They lost to Arkansas by 3. They have 10 points loses to Ole Miss and Alabama, and they are coming off an 8 point loss to Florida. Yes, they have some blowout loses also, but they are competitive more than they aren’t.
    • The rest of Vandy’s schedule is: vs AU, @ UT, @ Bama, vs UF, @ TAMU, vs Ark, @ LSU. With Auburn’s recent performance, the Vandy team has to have this circled as one of their best chances to not go 0-18 in SEC play this year.

Player Spotlight:

  • Auburn:

    • Bryce Brown
      • Auburn’s leading scorer, the senior from Stone Mountain, GA averages 16.3 points per game and shoots over 40.2% from behind the 3 point line. Brown had an absolutely awful game on Wednesday. He scored 8 points on 2-12 shooting. Typical Auburn games go as Brown goes. When he is awful, the team is awful. Brown is going to shoot the ball 10 times no matter what, if he starts missing shots early, he starts forcing up bad shots throughout the game.
    • Chuma Okeke
      • The Tiger who projects as the best NBA player, Okeke was the only player who came to play during the mid week game against Ole Miss. He finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds in the loss. This was Okeke at his best, and being aggressive. Okeke was by far the best player on both ends of the floor for the Tigers. Look for the team to try to lean even more on Okeke if shots aren’t falling elsewhere.
  • Vanderbilt:

    • Saben Lee
      • The sophomore from Phoenix is the Commodores leading scorer (13.5 ppg) and leader in assists (3.8 apg). Lee has been called on to lead the team since the Garland injury. He has done a decent job of it. You can look for Lee to have the ball early and often for the Commodores. He a solid, reliable player for whom the Auburn backcourt will have to account. He will play just as many minutes as Jared Harper, and that will be the biggest matchup to watch during this game.
    • Simisola Shittu
      • Shittu is the leading rebounder for the Commodores, and he also adds almost 12 points per game. Auburn has had trouble rebounding on both ends of the floor at certain times this season, so Shittu will have to take advantage. At 6 foot 10 inches, he will have a height advantage on the inside against an undersized Auburn frontcourt without Austin Wiley. Look for Shittu to get involved offensively during this game.

Auburn Network Predictions:

  • Olivia Crew, #1 Intern

    • Hopefully Auburn will win in what should be an easy win for them. Auburn beats Vandy 82-74.
  • Bill Cameron, The Drive with Bill Cameron, ESPN 106.7

    • After an awful performance at home, the Tigers MUST get back on the winning track Saturday in Nashville against a Vandy team which is 0-11 in conference play. Last year Auburn broke a 13-game losing streak against the ‘Dores, but the Tigers still haven’t won in Memorial Gym since the 1999-2000 season. I don’t have a great feeling about this one, but I’ll go with Auburn in a close one, 77-74.
  • Riley Hubbard, Production Assistant

    • Saturday was pretty much a shock to everybody because Auburn’s shooting usually heats up in front of their home crowd. After the performance on Wednesday, I really don’t know what the Tigers will look like against a less than stellar Vanderbilt team- especially on the road. I’m still going to take Auburn in a victory that comes down to the wire 72-70.
  • Will Schuette, The SEC Report, ESPN 106.7

    • I have said on the air I will attend the ‘0-18 parade’ in Nashville if Vanderbilt can finish the season winless in SEC play and its fans organize the celebration upon my request. That hope will live on past this weekend as Auburn will play desperate and cannot afford a loss to the worst team in the league. Auburn 79, Vanderbilt 73.
  • Painter Sharpless, The Lunch Break and After the Game: Basketball, ESPN 106.7

    • A slumping Auburn team in desperate need of a true-road win takes care of business against Vanderbilt. While the Commodores have not won a conference game this season, they will be prepared for Auburn at a venue — Memorial Gym — that the Tigers have historically struggled in. While I expect Vanderbilt to challenge Auburn, especially early, as the Tigers might be overly eager to prove themselves with back-to-back disappointing performances, Auburn’s depth and athleticism will be too much for their opponent. Particularly, as Auburn looks to improve their seed for the dance. Interestingly, numerous Auburn fans have written off the Tigers tournament hopes. While that;s too reactionary and more likely a worse case scenario than a reality, this team currently does not emit confidence. Taking care of business against the bottom feeder of their league won’t boost self-assurance much, but with solid play in Nashville and a home win versus Arkansas Wednesday, which I believe happens, Auburn should take a two-game win streak into Rupp Arena against Kentucky next Saturday. The Tigers simply cannot afford to drop a game to the league’s worst team. Auburn’s talent will make the gap between schools evident in the second half as they pick up their second conference road win this year.
  • Rich Perkins, Rich and Jeremy in the Morning, Wings 94.3

    • Vandy…. I hate this game. Every year. And this year is no exception. Is this a “must-win” for Pearl and company? Probably not, but it sure feels that way to the average fan (Hi. My name is Rich. I’m an average fan). So, with all the close (and not so close) losses that the Tigers have had lately, I still believe in the magic of the Sweat Man: Bruce Pearl. Auburn 84, Vandy 71.

My Prediction:

  • I’m off the Auburn bandwagon. This Auburn team has been brutal late in close games, and they haven’t shown they can win on the road. Vanderbilt has played some good teams close this season but just haven’t gotten over that hump. Another must win game for Auburn doesn’t go their way. Memorial Gymnasium is a tough place to win. Auburn doesn’t do it. People start calling for Bruce’s head. Vanderbilt 75-70.

Before the Game: Ole Miss @ Auburn

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Before the Game: Ole Miss @ Auburn Preview

Game Details:

  • When: Wednesday, February 13 @ 7:30 pm CT
  • Where: Auburn Arena, Auburn, AL
  • How to Watch: SECN, espn.com, ESPN App

Team Spotlights:

  • Auburn:

    • Ranked #27 in the AP poll sitting at 16-7 overall and 5-5 in the SEC
    • Auburn had won 3 games in a row until blowing a double digit lead at LSU on Saturday.
    • The Tigers are a high scoring team, averaging 83.6 ppg, but they struggle to defend without fouling, especially on the inside. Deceptively, Auburn has only given up 68.9 points per game on the season.
    • On the interior, Auburn is undersized without Center Austin Wiley, who is slowly returning for injury. After playing 5 minutes against Florida, he tallied 2 TOs in 3 minutes against LSU, and no one knows how much Wiley will play against a less talented Ole Miss team.
    • Auburn is led by its experienced backcourt, which is surprising because when Auburn loses, it is usually because they struggle to not turn the ball over.
    • Auburn has been much better at home this year, only losing one game: to UK after Auburn missed a shot to tie the game in the closing seconds.
  • Ole Miss:

    • No longer ranked in the AP poll with an 16-7 record overall and an 6-4 record in the SEC
    • The Rebels ended a 4 game skid with back to back wins against Texas A&M and UGA last week.
    • Led by Head Coach Kermit Davis, Ole Miss averages almost 78 points per game and gives up 70.7.
    • On January 9, this team handed Auburn its worst loss of the season: a 82-67 beatdown in Oxford.
    • The Rebels held Auburn to 32.8% shooting, forced 16 Tiger turnovers, and won the rebounding battle by 8 a little over a month ago en route to a 2-0 conference start.
    • Since the Auburn win, the Rebels have gone 4-5 with their only wins coming against Arkansas, Texas A&M, and UGA. The latter two are two of the three worst teams in the conference.

Player Spotlight:

  • Auburn:

    • Bryce Brown
      • Auburn’s leading scorer, the senior from Stone Mountain, GA averages 16.7 points per game and shoots over 41% from behind the 3 point line. Brown is at his best when his 3 point shot is falling, and he can use his deadly precision from downtown to open up driving lanes for himself. Brown can catch fire in a hurry, but sometimes it seems like he is just as likely to be ice cold. In certain games this season, Brown appears to disappear. That cannot happen against Ole Miss. The last time these two teams played, Brown was the only Tiger with more than 11 points. If Brown can score efficiently, the Tigers will be in a great situation to win.
    • Chuma Okeke
      • The Tiger who projects as the best NBA player, Okeke is the cornerstone of the interior for the Tigers this year. With Center Austin Wiley injured, it becomes Okeke’s responsibility to set the tone on the inside. In the last outing against Ole Miss, Okeke was 2-6 from the field and finished with 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 turnovers. Okeke has completely turned his season around since that game. On the season, he is averaging almost 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 50% from the field. Okeke is being more aggressive offensively, and it is opening up the offense for the backcourt. If Okeke continues to develop and be aggressive, this could be a long night for the Rebels.
  • Ole Miss:

    • Breein Tyree
      • A junior from Somerset, NJ, the 6 ft 2 in Breein Tyree is the leading scorer for the Rebels this season. He averages 18.5 points per game on a very efficient 12 shots per game coupled with an average of 48% shooting. Tyree doesn’t turn the ball over, which will be key against an Auburn defense that thrives on taking the ball away from opponents. He will have his hands full on defense guarding the high power Auburn guards, but look for the Rebels to lean heavily on the guy who has emerged as a true offensive star for this team.
    • Terence Davis
      • The other half of the explosive Rebel backcourt, the senior from Southaven, MS scored 27 points and tallied 12 rebounds in the first game against Auburn this season. This carried the Rebels during a night when Tyree only had 5 points of his own. We have seen how vulnerable Auburn can be on the offensive glass, so look for Davis to lead the Rebel charge on the glass again this time around. Davis is another deadeye shooter, averaging 5 attempts and 2 makes per game.

Auburn Network Predictions:

  • Zac Blackerby, After the Game: Basketball, ESPN 106.7

    • Auburn flexes it’s muscles again at home. The Tigers get revenge from their stumble earlier in conference play. Auburn 82-71.
  • Olivia Crew, #1 Intern

    • After losing a tough game on the road, I expect a big bounce back from Auburn. They were bested at Ole Miss earlier in the season, but with the improvement on the defensive end, Auburn will win 80-72.
  • Rich Perkins, Rich and Jeremy in the Morning, Wings 94.3

    • Auburn has had a ton of close games against conference opponents, and those close games have tended to be losses. Most of the wins have been pretty big. The Ole Black Miss Rebel Land Bear Sharks (or whatever they are calling themselves post NCAA -hammer) should feel fortunate that they stole one at home from Auburn in January (and frankly should feel lucky that they didn’t have to vacate basketball wins and be forced to mow Nick Saban’s lawn). This is a different Auburn team and the Tigers are playing home. Marshall Henderson isn’t walking out of that tunnel. AU- 88 UM- 71.
  • Bill Cameron, The Drive with Bill Cameron, ESPN 106.7

    • Thank goodness Auburn is back home!  They are a much better team (especially defensively) at Auburn Arena.  This Ole Miss team that looked so good in Oxford ended a 5-game losing streak with a home win over Texas A&M before blasting Georgia in Athens, but this ain’t Athens. Auburn 86-72.
  • Will Schuette, The SEC Report, ESPN 106.7

    • Ole Miss might have given Auburn its worst beating of the season in January, but there’s still a reason the Rebs were picked by many to finish last in the SEC. Kermit Davis is doing a great job in his debut season in Oxford, but Auburn is the deeper and more talented squad. The Tigers also remain one of the nation’s best when the game takes place on their home floor. Auburn 82, Ole Miss 74.
  • Riley Hubbard, Production Assistant

    • Saturday was a rough day for Auburn in Baton Rouge. Honestly, they were lucky to still be in the game late after all of the turnovers, poor ball movement, and horrible shot selection. Everybody knows that Auburn is a much better team at home than they are on the road and Ole Miss is not a bad team, but Auburn is superior from a talent standpoint. I believe that Auburn will get their momentum and their field goal shooting back in front of their home crowd and will take this one 87-79.

My Prediction:

  • Auburn shot historically poorly in Oxford the first time these two teams played. When you couple that with Ole Miss playing its best basketball of the year, it was truly the perfect storm. Auburn has been incredible at home outside of about 15 minutes against Kentucky. This is as close to a Must-Win game that Auburn can have in the SEC right now. The Tigers need to start winning games and winning them convincingly if they are going to be an NCAA Tournament lock. Look for Bryce Brown and Jared Harper to keep leading the charge at home. I am looking for Malik Dunbar to duplicate his 11 point performance, and Danjel Purifoy needs to continue his offensive resurgence this season. Auburn 90-70.

Before the Game: Auburn @ LSU

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Auburn @ LSU Preview

Game Details:

  • When: Saturday, February 9th at 1 pm CT
  • Where: Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge, LA
  • How to Watch: ESPN2, espn.com, ESPN App

Team Spotlights:

  • LSU:

    • Ranked #21 in the AP poll with an 18-4 record overall and an 8-1 record in the SEC
    • 1-1 in their last 2 games  after losing their first SEC game of the season against Arkansas at home last weekend. They bounced back with an OT victory on the road in Starkville, MS. Before these two games, the Tigers won 7 games in a row, all against conference opponents.
    • These Tigers average 83.4 points per game, which is 3rd best in the SEC behind Auburn and Tennessee. On the other hand, they are giving up 73.2 points per game which is 10th out of 14 SEC teams, 0.2 points better than Vanderbilt, who has yet to win a game in the conference.
    • LSU is a great rebounding team, especially offensively where they are second in the SEC (behind Auburn) averaging almost 13 per game.
    • This LSU team is not great defensively, so they rely on turnovers, leading the SEC in steals and steals per game averaging almost 10. Pair their quick hands with their experienced backcourt, and you end up with a 0.7 steal/turnover ratio which is tied for 1st in the SEC (Auburn).
  • Auburn:

    • Ranked #28 in the AP poll sitting at 16-6 overall and 5-4 in the SEC
    • Auburn has won 3 games in a row by an average of 23 points after a 2-4 start in SEC play.
    • The Tigers are second in the SEC in scoring, averaging 83.9 ppg, and their defense has vastly improved of late, dropping their points against average to 68.2, which is tied for 4th in the SEC (Mizzou). The 3 teams above them? Florida (AU just beat them by 14 and put up 76 points), Kentucky (ranked #5 in the AP poll), and Tennessee (ranked #1 in the AP poll).
    • On the interior, Auburn is undersized without Center Austin Wiley, who is slowly returning for injury. After playing 5 minutes against Florida, no one knows how much Wiley will play against a talented, relentless LSU frontcourt.
    • Auburn is 3rd in the SEC (UT, Ark) in assists per game with almost 16 baskets per game coming by way of a good pass. Pair this with being the 3rd best team at taking care of the ball (13 TOs per game, (UF, UT)), and Auburn sits tied for 2nd in the league in assist/turnover margin at 1.2

Player Spotlight:

  • LSU:

    • Tremont Waters:
      • Averaging 15.6 points on 45% shooting with 5.9 assists and 3 steals per game, Waters is on the shortlist of SEC Player of the Year Candidates. The sophomore is the Tigers best player, and it isn’t close. A very smart, very fast floor general, Waters is the heart and soul of this LSU team. As he goes, the team goes: he was 3/12 shooting with 12 points and 5 turnovers in their only SEC loss (to Arkansas). Waters will be going head to head with another experienced point guard in Auburn’s Jared Harper, a matchup that will have a huge effect on the result of the game.
    • Naz Reid:
      • The 6 foot 10 inch freshman is a dominant force inside for LSU. An incredible two man combination with Tremont Waters, Reid can do it all in the screen game. He is a great cutter with good hands when he slips screens, and he even leads the Tigers in 3 point percentage which makes defenders press out on him when he pops after setting screens. Somehow, Reid is only averaging 6 rebounds per game, but he has averaged 8 per game in his last 5. On Wednesday, Reid took over the game @ MSU in the second half, carrying the Tigers to victory behind his 29 point/9 rebound performance. We have seen Auburn have trouble with good, physical big men this season (see: Travis/Washington from UK and Silva from USC).
  • Auburn:

    • Bryce Brown
      • Auburn’s leading scorer, the senior from Stone Mountain, GA averages 17 points per game and shoots over 41% from behind the 3 point line. With Jared Harper going toe to toe with Tremont Waters, the Tigers are going to need Brown to find the bottom of the bucket early and often. Brown is at his best when his 3 point shot is falling, and he can use his deadly precision from downtown to open up driving lanes for himself. Brown has matured before our eyes as the season has gone on, relying less on the 3 point shot and taking the ball to the basket when his team needs him to.
    • Anfernee McLemore/Horace Spencer
      • With Austin Wiley still not playing serious minutes, the responsibility of controlling the paint falls to McLemore and Spencer. The duo has struggled mightily with defending down low and not fouling. This task won’t get any easier when they get to Baton Rouge. This is an aggressive, athletic LSU team with a grown man down low. If McLemore and Spencer can stay in this game, Auburn will be in a great position to win. On the other hand, if they get into foul trouble early, this is going to be much, much tougher for the road Tigers.

Auburn Network Predictions:

  • Rich Perkins, Rich and Jeremy in the Morning, Wings 94.3

    • Being an expert on hoops, I can say with certainty Coach Pearl will have the team ready for the LSWho Fake Tigers. Score prediction: AU – eleventy billion, LSU- 7.
  • Riley Hubbard, Production Assistant

    • LSU has proved to be a bit of a surprise this season in the SEC, and Tremont Waters has been a solid leader of this team. However, this is a good time for Auburn to be making the trip to Baton Rouge since LSU has dropped into a two game skid. Auburn had an incredible homestand with big momentum wins over Missouri, Alabama, and Florida where they really proved they can take down anybody if they shoot well from the field. Since Auburn has been shooting well as of late and has some big momentum on their side going into this one, I’ve got Auburn taking a close win, 88-82. A much closer win that it likely would be if this game were being played in Auburn Arena.
  • Mike Hubbard, Our Fearless Leader

    • I predict that Pete Maravich will score 72 points for LSU. (You young folks probably have no idea who Pete Maravich was!).
  • Zac Blackerby, After the Game: Basketball, ESPN 106.7

    • Auburn 82. LSU 74. Auburn gets their biggest road win of the season. They’ve found a groove over their three game home stand and I believe they are beginning to look like the team that won the conference a year ago. Tigers get a win and reappear in the top 20 in the next AP Poll.
  • Bill Cameron, The Drive with Bill Cameron, ESPN 106.7

    • Auburn has gotten well over the last three home games, but life is different on the road. LSU has gotten into the habit of falling behind and making furious comebacks, but if Auburn gets a double-digit lead it will be tougher for the home Tigers to come all the way back. AU’s defense has really improved lately, and if that continues, give me the road Tigers in a squeaker, 81-79.
  • Olivia Crew, #1 Intern

    • Since Wiley is back, they will overcome the faults they have had in the past conference games. Road games have been difficult for Auburn, but I predict they will defeat LSU, 82-78.
  • Will Schuette, The SEC Report, ESPN 106.7

    • Auburn is coming off its best two performances of the season, but the lack of signature road win still provides concern. Auburn hasn’t been able to slow down many offenses like LSU and I’m not sure that changes Saturday. Give me LSU, 86-79.
  • Painter Sharpless, The Lunch Break, ESPN 106.7

    • Auburn’s improved continuity and defensive play coupled with a surging Samir Doughty and more assertive Chuma Okeke leads Auburn to victory against a talented LSU team that can score with ease — particularly in the paint.  Auburn wins a game in the high 80s.

My Prediction:

  • Auburn is better than LSU at all of LSU’s strengths. Auburn should win this game by double digits; however, it is very difficult to win on the road in the SEC, and Auburn hasn’t shown they can do it. This is not quite a must win game for Auburn, but it sure is close. It is time to show that they can win games away from Auburn Arena. I think that Auburn will get it done, but that this game with be close throughout. Look for Auburn to have to keep LSU at bay for most of the second half. The key to this game for Auburn will be controlling Naz Reid inside. my score prediction is that Auburn will win by 9, 85-76, after LSU fouls late causing the score to look more lopsided that the game really was.