Talent Columns

Riley’s Ramblings: Auburn Basketball Needs To Learn From Mistakes and Auburn Baseball’s Series Against Texas A&M Shows They Are a Contender

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A win is a win, and although it wasn’t pretty in round one, the four-seed Auburn Tigers are getting ready for a Sunday night match up against Clemson in the round of sixty-four. Auburn needs to focus on fixing their mistakes from their game on Friday afternoon which included a lot of bad shooting from the Tigers. Auburn shot just 35.6% from the field and a feeble 20.8% from behind the three point line. Most people can agree that Auburn is lucky that their ability to get turnovers (21) and a bit of poor shooting from Charleston kept them from getting upset in San Diego.


Just because they struggled on Friday does not mean that they are likely to lose to the number five seed Clemson on Sunday night. Auburn needs to quickly learn from their mistakes because another shooting performance like Friday night would likely end the tournament run. Clemson took down twelve-seed New Mexico State on Friday by a 79-68 final to punch their ticket to the round of thirty-two. Auburn will be tasked with slowing down the hot shooting Tigers which shot an incredible 55.9% from the field (42.9% from the three-point line).


Currently, Clemson is a 1.5 point underdog, but Auburn will need to get hot shooting the ball because when they get momentum on offense (which was rare on Friday) they are hard to beat. (6:10 tip on TBS)


With March Madness going on, SEC conference opening weekend was almost forgotten. After another excellent start from Casey Mize (7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER) on Friday and a blowout eighth inning highlighted by a Steven Williams grand slam on Saturday, Auburn has already won the series against Texas A&M. Texas A&M is not a slouch either- The Aggies are ranked ninth in the country by D1 Baseball and tenth by Baseball America. Auburn will send Tanner Burns to the mound on Sunday to try and finish off the series sweep, which would be huge for Auburn going forward (1:00 first pitch on SEC Network+).


Auburn’s record is now pushed up to an impressive 19-1 (2-0 in SEC) with five series win including Texas A&M. The SEC is undoubtedly the toughest conference in the country with eight of the fourteen teems in the Baseball America Top 25. Behind one of the best aces in the county in Casey Mize and a solid offense, the Tigers look like they can be one of the best teams in the conference. Casey Mize has made every series opener for Auburn feel like a guaranteed win and deserves a lot of credit. Mize is currently 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 51 strikeouts in five starts. He is shown incredible swing and miss stuff and threw the first no-hitter from an Auburn pitcher since 2003. This team is a lot of fun to watch and based on the first two games of the Texas A&M series, is going to be a tough out for other teams around the league.


Blackerby Breakdown: Kam Martin’s elite speed can make a difference

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In this week’s edition of the Blackerby Breakdown, we look at Auburn running back and his elite speed and how it has been displayed so far as part of his Auburn career.

Martin houses a big run

In this play, it is clear that Martin is fast enough to fly through the entire Georgia Southern defense. Granted the offensive line did an excellent job, the defense was out of position, and the defensive backs were turned away from Martin, he still was able to reach the end zone.

Martin gets to the open field

Once again, Martin’s speed paired with the offensive line doing their job will equal solid chunk yards for the Auburn offense. he does some minor change of direction to better his position in the open field and makes the most of this run.

Martin shows patience and burst

Auburn fans saw a lot of poise out of their key running back last season. Martin did not show it often but he did on this run against Georgia Southern. After passing behind the line to diagnose the defense, he was able to burst through the line and pick up solid yardage.

Painter’s Points: Auburn, College of Charleston reemerge in The Big Dance

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Auburn basketball finished the 2017-2018 SEC regular season as champions, well, co-champions alongside the Tennessee Volunteers, who Auburn defeated in Knoxville by double digits.

While Bruce Pearl’s team secured a No. 1 seed for the SEC Tournament, the Tigers limped down the final stretch of the season losing five of their final nine games.

So, Auburn took their No.1 seed to St. Louis and immediately proceeded to lose to its biggest rival in embarrassing fashion. That includes a second-half drumming from archival Alabama in the conference tournament.

After Auburn’s exit from the SEC tournament, Bruce Pearl said, “Losing (Friday against Alabama) doesn’t take any of the shine off of what this team accomplished. We just weren’t able to build on it by winning three games (in the SEC Tournament) and winning our next championship.”

Still, the Tigers are well positioned with a favorable matchup against the College of Charleston. Pearl described their first-round opponent with respect when he said, “College of Charleston is a three-headed monster. They’ve got two great guards that play the point, the two and they got a great four-man. All those guys can shoot three’s, average over 17 points a game. They have three great payers and lots of other good pieces.”

It is clear that Pearl understands the perception of his program weakened during February and early March. Auburn needs to regain its edge and has had time to rest. Now they can gain confidence and build momentum against a winnable, albeit no pushover, Charleston team.

Charleston coach Earl Grant said, “We have experience, size, depth and toughness. We’ve been able to win on the road and on neutral courts this season. We are built to win.”

Auburn has its work cut out for them in San Diego, but also appears to have an advantage in skill, pace of play and even personnel match ups since the big men for Charleston play limited minutes. I expect a sporadic game, but ultimately believe Auburn pulls away in the second half if they can force turnovers and put Charleston in a point deficit that slow-paced teams oft struggle to rally from.

Auburn would be wise to score points early, build its confidence, focus on shot selection and find an offensive rhythm while playing aggressive defense that forces Charleston into an uncomfortable up-tempo style that likely leads to increased turnovers.


Dive deeper into Painter’s Points:

  • Auburn plays their first round in San Diego; the Tigers will tip off against the Cougars Friday at 6:27 p.m. CT on truTV
  • The winner will advance to play the winner of Clemson (5) and New Mexico State (12)
  • Auburn has not been to the NCAA tournament since 2003
  • First College of Charleston NCAA tournament appearance since 1999
  • College of Charleston touts a No. 13 seed
  • The Cougars finished their season at 26-7
  • Auburn is currently a 10.5-point favorite
  • ESPN gives Auburn an 87.8 percent chance to win
  • According to ESPN, the People’s Bracket placed Auburn in the Sweet 16 with a potential Kansas matchup looming
  • To meet Kansas in the Sweet 16 Auburn must likely beat a formidable Clemson team
  • Charleston’s 9.6 turnovers per game is fourth best in the country (351 ranked teams)
  • Charleston (26-7, 14-4 Colonial Athletic Association) comes into the tournament having won 14 of 15 games
  • Additionally, the Cougars won their conference tournament (Colonial Athletic Association)
  • Auburn leads the all-time series against Charleston 3-0
  • The two teams last met in the 2012 ESPN Charleston Classic at TD Arena. The Tigers won the game 55-51.


Riley’s Ramblings: Undefeated Auburn Baseball Recieving National Attention and Saturday is a Must Win For Auburn Basketball

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For the sixth time in program history, Auburn University is undefeated through their first nine games of the season. Auburn baseball has been on a roll recently, highlighted by their two series sweeps of Longwood State and Bryant University at home. On Monday, Baseball America released their latest college baseball top 25 rankings that featured the Tigers in the number 25 spot. Their 8-7 victory over South Alabama in Mobile on Tuesday night must be a momentum booster as well, because the Jaguars are ranked 21st in the nation by Baseball America and 20th in the nation by D1Baseball and should lead to Auburn going up in the rankings.


The biggest bright spot during the young season has been their weekend rotation. Through two starts and 12.0 innings, Auburn Freshman Tanner Burns has only given up one earned run and earned the win in his first start against Longwood State. Casey Mize got the win in both of his starts and has racked up 16 strikeouts in his 11.0 innings of work. Andrew Mitchell and Calvin Coker have also been very solid for the Tigers out of the bullpen.


Auburn will put their perfect record on the line this weekend against BYU at home. Game one will start at 5:00 and games two and three will be a double header on Saturday (12:00 and 3:30). Auburn is going in a positive direction in nonconference play and will need to use these games to keep gaining momentum and team chemistry until conference play starts on March 16th against Texas A&M.


The double digit win against rival Alabama at home looked like it was going to be a huge momentum booster for Auburn Basketball, but the last couple of games have not gone to plan for the Tigers as they lost to Florida and Arkansas on the road. After dropping the last two games, the SEC regular season title that seemed to be in the bag for Auburn is now in question with one regular season game left. Auburn and Tennessee are tied at the top of the conference standings and Auburn either needs to win against South Carolina on Saturday or have Tennessee lose against Georgia (Auburn receives the tiebreaker for winning the head-to-head matchup).


Auburn looks like they have fallen victim to playing teams late in the season that are on the bubble in Florida and Arkansas and probably want the win more than the Tigers do. However, Auburn has a great chance to rebound against South Carolina at home on Saturday afternoon. Auburn has been almost unbeatable in front of the home crowd, and getting the win would be huge as it would give them the number one seed in the SEC Tournament in St. Louis.


Despite the two tough road losses and the injury to Anfrenee Maclamore, Auburn is still a great team with a lot of heart. Fans need to keep in mind that they are still ranked 14th in the nation and are projected to be a three seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. I can easily see Auburn as a sweet sixteen team if they shoot the ball well going into the NCAA Tournament.


Peck’s Picks: Tougher Than Leather

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Auburn University’s men’s basketball team continued its remarkable season on Wednesday night with a 76-66 victory over the visiting Kentucky Wildcats in Auburn Arena.

Even though the #10 Tigers entered the game as a substantial favorite, Kentucky’s historic dominance of Auburn and the Wildcats size advantage suggested that the game should be close throughout, and it was. Even when Kentucky is having a disappointing season, they’re still Kentucky, a team with four projected 2018 NBA Draft first-round picks in their starting lineup.

Auburn started the game cold from the three-point line; to overcome, the Tigers had to rely on transition defense, spectacular free-throw shooting, and sheer will until shots started to fall. Bryce Brown, playing his first game since injuring his shoulder against Texas A&M,

Throughout the final ten minutes of the game, Kentucky’s players seemed to lack energy. Auburn’s pressing style and desire to play at a fast tempo has left opposing teams gasping for air in the closing minutes; despite Kentucky’s vast athleticism and experience playing up-tempo basketball, they were no different. Auburn exhausted Kentucky on both ends of the floor, leaving Kentucky with nothing left in the gas tank when the game was in its most crucial moments.

Tigers point guard Jared Harper, who now leads the conference in assists per game, made all 9 of his free throw attempts and showcased his fearless, willing-to-shoot-from-anywhere attitude. At 5’10” and 170 pounds, it’s understandable for the uninitiated to wonder if Harper is strong enough to withstand the pounding that he takes because of the physical style he plays, but Harper is representative of the team for which he plays: he’s tough, he’s fast, he’ll bother you with his defense, and people who overlook him are making a big mistake.

With Brown back in the fold and seemingly showing no ill-effects from his injured shoulder, head coach Bruce Pearl will try to keep his foot on the gas and ensure that Auburn finishes this special season with a bang. With five regular-season games left before the SEC tournament, Pearl could rack up 27 or 28 wins and keep Auburn in excellent position for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Basketball can break your heart, though: Auburn could go cold again, or stumble against a team equipped to exploit its lack of size inside (or a team that won’t waver if forced to play 40 up-tempo minutes). The unknowability of the NCAA Tournament is one of the things that makes it a preferred sporting event.

Until Selection Sunday gets here and shows us Auburn’s exact path to college basketball’s national championship, all the Tigers can do is continue to win.



– Even before A&M’s victory in Auburn Arena, I was struck by how many good teams are in the SEC this year. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes lobbied for nine SEC teams to make the tournament after his team beat Kentucky, and the idea doesn’t seem too farfetched as the middle of the conference continues to get bigger and bigger. Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and LSU appear to be the only teams in the league with no real shot of qualifying for the tournament as an at-large. The other eleven almost assuredly won’t all make it, but they’re all firmly in the hunt – including Auburn’s opponent on the road Saturday, South Carolina.

– I’m not sure what made Josh McDaniels decide to bail on the Colts in the hours before his introductory press conference, but I understand why he wouldn’t want to coach that franchise. Even though there are an extremely limited number of NFL head coaching positions, the Colts are simply in too much turmoil. Questions linger about the owner’s fitness for office, but more pressing questions remain about the health and long-term prognosis of quarterback Andrew Luck. When Luck was at Stanford, he was pegged as a surefire NFL great, and he displayed immense promise in his initial seasons with the Colts. Unfortunately, his shoulder injury has been mishandled and years have been shaved off his prime, and now it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever become the player everyone was certain he could be. It echoes the story of Cubs pitcher Mark Prior, who also showed all-time-great promise but ultimately had his career derailed by injuries that kept him from living up to his potential on the field. Hopefully I’m wrong and Luck can reestablish himself as one of the league’s best players, but the decision by McDaniels leads me to believe it won’t happen anytime soon.

– With pitchers and catchers on the verge of reporting, here are some things I’m looking forward to about this year’s Major League Baseball season: the addition of Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, the continued brilliance of Mike Trout, the Astros infield, the race for the NL Central, the Giants attempt to bounce back after last year’s disastrous season, the glut of power-hitting first basemen in the National League (Goldschmidt, Votto, Freeman, Bellinger, Rizzo, and possibly Eric Hosmer if somebody signs him), and the big-name hitters that could find themselves traded during the year (like Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, or even Bryce Harper).

Until next week, enjoy the games!


Riley’s Ramblings: Opening Day On The Plains For Auburn Baseball

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After over seven months of waiting, college baseball is finally back! First pitch on Opening Day at Plainsman Park is set for 5:00 against Longwood and Auburn has a lot of positives to take from last year when they were one win away from going to a super regional for the first time since 1999. This team is clearly on an upward trend under Head Coach Butch Thompson, who is entering his third season as the Tigers skipper.


Junior Casey Mize (RHP) finished fifth in the SEC in ERA last season

One bright spot from last year was the current Tigers ace, Junior Casey Mize. After a less than stellar freshman season, Mize burst on to the scene posting an 8-2 record with a 2.04 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) for the Tigers in 2017. After the season Mize was awarded second team All-American Honors by Rawlings and his 109 strikeouts was good enough for third in the SEC and the most from an Auburn pitcher since Brent Schoening and Chris Bootcheck in 1999. The Tigers right hander has a strong fastball that tops out at 96 mph, a nice upper-80’s splitter, and occasionally breaks out a low 80’s curveball.


Mize will be asked to lead a staff that will also consist of sophomore Davis Daniel and true freshman Tanner Burns. Davis Daniel finished his freshman season in 2017 with a 4-3 record and a tough 5.89 ERA in 17 games (16 starts). Daniel shows a lot of potential with a mid to high 90’s fastball, but needs to continue to develop the rest of his arsenal to pitch off his fastball. With his freshman season under his belt, 2018 could potentially be Daniel’s breakout year. After Daniel in the rotation is true freshman Tanner Burns from Decatur High School in Decatur, Alabama. In high school, Burns showcased a fastball that tops at around 96 mph with very impressive breaking stuff including a slider, a very hard curveball, and occasionally a changeup. The transition from high school to college baseball is never an easy one, but Burns has the ability to be a productive starter this season that will only continue to develop.


Senior Jay Estes (INF) finished last season as the team leader in doubles with 19

The batting order for Auburn will be looking a little different this season after losing seven position players to either graduation or the 2017 MLB Draft, but there are still some players that can build on a strong 2017 at the plate. Senior infielder Jay Estes will be looking to build on a strong season last year where he finished with a .276 batting average, 29 RBI, and a team best 19 doubles. Estes will likely move toward the three or four spot in the lineup this season where Auburn hopes to see more clutch hitting and increased productivity from him. Senior third baseman Josh Anthony had a great year in the field and batted a respectable .266 at the plate with 39 RBI. Anthony is a very athletic player with a tremendous arm at third. Hopefully Anthony’s power stroke will come around this season and he can become a more consistent hitter.


A big hurdle that Auburn will need to overcome this season is the loss of many of their core players from last season including the team’s ace Keegan Thompson (7-4, 2.41 ERA), RBI leader Daniel Robert (42), batting average leader Jonah Todd (.376), and closer Cole Lipscomb. Head Coach Butch Thompson has shown how good he is at developing young talent and that his team can be extremely competitive in the SEC. Friday’s game will be the beginning of a new chapter for Auburn Baseball, and the future is very bright for Coach Thompson’s Tigers in 2018.


Riley Hubbard

ESPN 106.7


Painter’s Points: Auburn Hoops Continues to Build Its Brand

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Auburn basketball lost a close game to Texas A&M last week, but bounced back against Georgia in Athens days later. Auburn is 22-3 overall with a 10-2 conference record; that puts them atop the SEC. While the Tigers slipped two spots in the AP Poll this week, Auburn was fortunate 16 of the top-25 in the AP Poll lost last week too. Auburn hosts Kentucky on Valentine’s Day at 8 p.m. CT and will look to bring back momentum to Auburn Arena against a blue blood program that has struggled at times this season.

  • Auburn could have its leading scorer Bryce Brown back for the Kentucky game
  • Brown missed much of the TAMU game and the entire Georgia game with a right shoulder strain
  • Anfernee Mclemore needs a big performance; Auburn has struggled against teams with length and size this year
  • Still, Mclemore ranks first in the SEC in blocks, and 12th nationally, with 69 rejections
  • Jared Harper ranks first in the SEC with 149 assists
  • Harper averages 6 assists per game; he has 13 games with seven or more assists
  • Auburn was the first SEC team to reach 10 wins this season
  • Auburn is ranked in the top 10 (No. 10) for the second straight week after going 15 years – that was a 469-game drought – without being ranked in the top ten (according to Justin Ferguson of SEC Country)
  • While the AP Poll dropped Auburn after splitting games with TAMU and UGA, the selection committee respects Auburn’s resume
  • The selection committee awarded the Tigers the top 2-seed in their most recent projection
  • Auburn is ranked ahead of blue bloods Kansas and Duke in the AP Poll and they host unranked Kentucky this week

Painter’s Points

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Auburn men’s basketball finds itself in pleasantly unfamiliar territory. In the most recent AP poll, Auburn is ranked No. 8. That moves them three spots ahead of their previous position; it’s the highest rank for an Auburn men’s basketball team since the turn of this century – 2000.

Bruce Pearl has trekked down a tough road, paving this season’s success throughout the past four years. Now, his time and effort appear to have come to fruition. At least, the blueprint looks solid.

Auburn host a streaky Texas A&M squad that plays poorly on the road, but still has a plethora of talent. Texas A&M has been putrid away from home while Auburn has yet to lose at Auburn Arena this season. Pearl’s unit, the current SEC standings leader, is favored and should be.

Nonetheless, the Tigers must play well to avoid losing to the Aggies, whose non-conference schedule has propped up their poor league play. A&M cannot afford to drop many more games if they want to make a run at the NCAA tournament. A road win against a top-10 Auburn team would be a huge step in the right direction.

Take a gander at this week’s version of Painter’s Points.

  • No. 8 the highest ranking Auburn has earned in nearly two decades (18 years)
  • Auburn is currently ranked ahead of blue bloods Duke (No. 9), Kansas (No. 10) and Kentucky (No. 24)
  • Auburn carries a five-game win streak into Auburn Arena versus Texas A&M
  • Auburn made a season-high 17 three-pointers against Vanderbilt
  • The Tigers are ranked No. 5 in RPI
  • Auburn’s 15-year NCAA tournament drought could end with Auburn as a No. 1 seed, although more projections have them listed as a No. 2 seed
  • The NCAA denied Austin Wiley’s appeal – he will remain ineligible for the entire season
  • Auburn has appealed, and still awaits a decision from the NCAA, on Danjel Purifoy’s eligibility
  • Auburn is seventh in the country in scoring per game
  • The Tigers are No. 33 in rebounds per game even without a traditional center
  • 1986 was the last year Auburn men’s basketball won a tournament game


Riley’s Ramblings: Auburn Basketball’s Toughest Games Are Still In Front Of Them

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Auburn earned another win on Tuesday night at Ole Miss behind Bryce Brown’s 23 points to improve their record to 20-2 (8-1 in SEC), but there’s no denying that the toughest of Auburn’s schedule is still in front of them. Auburn has proved to the college basketball world that they are the best team in the SEC and is almost certain to earn a NCAA Tournament bid, but the Tigers will definitely be tested before the SEC Tournament in St. Louis. Even though Vanderbilt has the worst record in the SEC at 8-14 (2-7 in SEC), they are far from being a pushover. In fact, they were just a few free throws away from taking down Kentucky on Tuesday night. The Commadors are also a team full of sharp shooters led by Riley LaChance. LaChance is liable to make a shot from almost anywhere and can be tough to stop once he finds his rhythm. So far this season, LaChance is shooting 47% from the field and 42% from behind the three point line.

(Video Credit: ESPN)


After the Commadors on Saturday night, Auburn will go on to play Texas A&M (14-8, 3-6 in SEC), Georgia (13-8, 4-5 in SEC), Kentucky (17-5, 6-3 in SEC), South Carolina (13-9, 4-5 in SEC), Alabama (14-8, 5-4 in SEC), Florida (15-7, 6-3 in SEC), and Arkansas (15-7, 4-5 in SEC). Luckily for the Tigers, the Vandy, Texas A&M, Kentucky, and Alabama games are all being played at Auburn Area. The atmosphere that Auburn plays in at Auburn Area can make it feel like nobody can travel to the plains and win. Auburn is 11-0 at home this year and to have Kentucky at home this season is huge for the Tigers.


In the latest edition of ESPN’s Bracketology with Joe Lunardi, Auburn was projected to be a two seed, so if the Tigers can go at least .500 from this point, they will be in prime position for the NCAA regardless of their performance in the SEC Tournament (where Auburn will have a good chance to go deep). For now all eyes are on this Saturday’s battle with Vanderbilt- A game that is no guaranteed win. A win on Saturday at Auburn Area could possibly make the currently 11th ranked Auburn Tigers a top ten team, which nobody could have predicted before the season began.


Blackerby Breakdown: Bryce Brown keeps getting it done

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On this edition of the Blackerby Breakdown, we look at three ways Auburn guard Bryce Brown is making an impact on the offensive side of the court.

Brown’s inside game has improved.


The Auburn junior is showing that he is more than a three point shooter. Against Ole Miss, he was 6 for 9 from shots inside the arc.

Brown is consistent from deep.

Auburn’s third year man has always been a threat to score from deep but suffered from cold streaks throughout the season. This year, he has been one of the more consistnet three point shooters in the conference. After the Ole Miss win, he has registered 75 made three point shots.

Brown is setting up his teammates.

Brown is third on the Auburn roster in assists. He has recorded 46 assists and is behind only point guards Jared Harper and Davion Mitchell.