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.