Know Your Other Tiger Rival: Auburn

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

LEAVE YOUR TRIFECTA PICKS IN COMMENTS.

I'm not going to lie: The motivation level for this post is not amazingly high. It's not that Auburn isn't any more/less interesting/good than other teams Mizzou has played at home recently; it's that a) Mizzou is probably going to win*, and b) I'm much, much, much, much more interested in the next road game (at Texas A&M next Thursday). Mizzou faces a very interesting February for reasons both good and bad, but the Tigers' progress on the road will tell the tale.

* "Probably going to win" isn't the same as "going to win," obviously. Anybody who watched Mizzou-South Carolina knows that any game is losable. And a loss would certainly tell us a lot about this Mizzou team. But the odds are certainly in favor of the home team.

Auburn Tigers (8-12)


AU
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
67.1
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.00 0.99
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.19 1.23
2-PT FG% 46.2% 47.7%
3-PT FG% 33.3% 33.5%
FT% 67.2% 64.2%
True Shooting % 51.4% 52.3%




AU Opp.
Assists/Gm 13.5 13.0
Steals/Gm 7.9 6.7
Turnovers/Gm 13.9 14.8
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.54 1.33




AU Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 11.6 10.9
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 11.6 10.9
Difference +0.0 +0.0

I always say that the things that create your best qualities also create your worst. It rarely works out so clearly with a basketball team, but that sentence basically personifies Auburn in 2012-13. They hold opponents to average-at-best shooting, but they are average-at-best shooters (far worse than average, actually). They foul players who can't shoot free throws, but they can't shoot free throws. They force a lot of turnovers and turn the ball over a lot. They keep you from grabbing an absurd number of offensive rebounds, and you keep them from grabbing an absurd number of offensive rebounds.

Though AU's strength of schedule has been far from amazing, the above statements seem to remain true whether Auburn is playing the No. 50 team or the No. 150 team. As you'll see below, Auburn's average performance versus a team ranked between No. 75 and 150 is a 3-point loss. The Tigers' average performance versus a team ranked between No. 151 and No. 250 is a 6-point loss. Yet they almost beat Ole Miss (No. 30) at home and fell in double-overtime to Arkansas in Fayetteville, where the Hogs are actually good (of course). Auburn rarely loses big (only two of their losses have been by more than 12 points; that's the same number as Missouri), but ... they usually lose.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

AU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

AU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 193 86 MU big
Effective FG% 210 77 MU big
Turnover % 168 295 AU big
Off. Reb. % 153 50 MU big
FTA/FGA 177 9 MU big
MU Offense vs AU Defense Ranks

MU Offense AU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 22 140 MU big
Effective FG% 120 186 MU
Turnover % 104 110 push
Off. Reb. % 9 144 MU big
FTA/FGA 231 266 MU

Where the Tigers are weakest

Well, for starters, they can't shoot. They rank 220th in 2PT%, 183rd in 3PT% and 216th in FT%. They get a lot of shots blocked, and they don't rebound the ball well enough to rely on second chances. That Missouri is so bad at forcing turnovers means AU should be able to get a shot on almost every possession; and hey, anything can happen in a given game. They did shoot 54% (44% on 3-pointers) at Arkansas. But on average, allowing them shots won't really matter because they'll miss them and you'll grab the defensive rebound.

Defensively, this isn't a terrible team -- it's not great either, but it's not terrible -- except for one thing: Auburn fouls a lot. Granted, the Tigers usually foul players who can't make free throws, but three of their four best players average at least 2.8 fouls per game, and their best big backup averages 1.9 fouls in under 14 minutes per game. They play really, really physical defense, and while that can sometimes be a strength, it costs them dearly at times.

Where they are best

Again, they do tend to foul bigs, which is sometimes beneficial -- they rank 16th in opponent FT% -- and they do play pretty solid post defense when they aren't getting whistled (72nd in Block%). They also turn you over reasonably well (78th in Steal%, 110th in TO%). They are reasonably experienced (55th in Experience), reasonably big (70th in Effective Height) ... reasonably, reasonably, reasonably. They're not elite at anything, though.

Auburn's Season to Date

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    No. 93 Florida State (78-72)
    No. 114 LSU (68-63)
    at No. 143 College of Charleston (55-51)
    at No. 181 South Carolina (74-71)
    No. 291 IUPU-Fort Wayne (61-50)
    No. 303 Tennessee Tech (81-62)
    No. 318 Furman (64-50)
    No. 347 Grambling (92-42)
  • Losses
    No. 17 Kentucky (53-75)
    No. 30 Ole Miss (61-63)
    vs. No. 54 Illinois (79-81)
    vs. No. 62 Dayton (63-73)
    at No. 81 Arkansas (80-88, 2OT)
    vs. No. 120 Murray State (59-79)
    at No. 124 Boston College (49-50)
    No. 129 DePaul (76-80)
    at No. 137 Georgia (49-57)
    at No. 155 Vanderbilt (61-73)
    No. 156 Rhode Island (72-78, 2OT)
    No. 228 Winthrop (67-74)

Average Score, Auburn versus Top 75: Opponent 73.0, Auburn 64.0 (-9.0)
Average Score, Auburn vs. Top 76-150: Opponent 67.5, Auburn 64.3 (-3.2)
Average Score, Auburn vs. Top 151-250: Opponent 74.0, Auburn 68.5 (-5.5)
Average Score, Auburn versus Top 251+: Auburn 74.5, Opponent 51.0 (+23.5)

The Ole Miss game shows that, as with most major-conference teams, Auburn can compete if you let them. The seven losses to teams ranked 120th or worse, on the other hand, tell us how far Tony Barbee's squad still has to go. In all, Auburn is 2-9 versus teams in the Top 140, which ... yeah. Not good, even if a lot of the losses have been relatively close.

Auburn Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Frankie Sullivan (6'1, 206, Sr.) 13.8 0.41 33.4 MPG, 16.8 PPG (49% 2PT, 29% 3PT, 76% FT), 4.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 2.8 TOPG, 2.8 PFPG
Chris Denson (6'2, 175, Jr.) 11.1 0.46 24.3 MPG, 11.9 PPG (50% 2PT, 23% 3PT, 65% FT), 3.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.4 TOPG
Rob Chubb (6'10, 250, Sr.) 9.7 0.36 26.8 MPG, 9.6 PPG (51% 2PT, 58% FT), 7.8 RPG, 2.4 TOPG, 3.1 PFPG
Allen Payne (6'6, 215, Jr.) 8.3 0.29 28.6 MPG, 8.4 PPG (54% 2PT, 22% 3PT, 67% FT), 4.7 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.9 TOPG, 2.9 PFPG
Josh Wallace (5'10, 170, Sr.) 5.6 0.22 25.0 MPG, 3.7 PPG (32% 2PT, 33% 3PT, 71% FT), 3.4 APG, 2.2 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.4 TOPG
Ashauhn Dixon-Tatum (7'0, 230, Sr.) 5.5 0.40 13.8 MPG, 4.3 PPG (52% 2PT, 63% FT), 3.4 RPG, 1.1 BPG
Shaquille Johnson (6'5, 210, Fr.) 5.4 0.30 18.2 MPG, 4.6 PPG (40% 2PT, 32% 3PT, 67% FT), 3.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.1 TOPG
Jordan Price (6'5, 230, Fr.) 4.8 0.33 14.7 MPG, 5.8 PPG (35% 2PT, 46% 3PT, 67% FT), 1.4 RPG
Noel Johnson (6'6, 205, Sr.) 3.6 0.19 19.0 MPG, 5.8 PPG (23% 2PT, 39% 3PT, 57% FT), 2.4 RPG
Brian Greene, Jr. (6'3, 205, Fr.) 3.5 0.28 12.4 MPG, 3.2 PPG (41% 2PT, 44% 3PT, 44% FT), 1.2 APG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls. It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Highest Usage%: Sullivan (29%), Denson (27%), Chubb (21%)
  • Highest Floor%: Denson (40%), Wallace (39%), Dixon-Tatum (39%)
  • Highest %Pass: Wallace (75%), Greene (63%), S. Johnson (58%)
  • Highest %Shoot: N. Johnson (54%), Dixon-Tatum (53%), Chubb (46%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Denson (21%), Dixon-Tatum (18%), Chubb (14%)
  • Highest %T/O: Chubb (13%), Dixon-Tatum (11%), Payne (10%)
  • Again, most of the players who bring positive traits to the table, also bring an equal and opposite negative trait. Frankie Sullivan can score, pass, go up and grab rebounds among the trees, pick your pocket ... and also turn the ball a lot, brick 3-pointers and quickly get into foul trouble. Rob Chubb can grab boards and draw fouls ... and turn the ball over like crazy and even more quickly get into foul trouble. Ditto for Allen Payne. Freshmen like Jordan Price and Brian Greene, Jr., can shoot 3's but can't really shoot 2's or do anything else worthy of playing time. Et cetera.

Keys to the Game

  1. Flip vs. Frankie. As The Trib's Steve Walentik noted yesterday, when Missouri loses, it's in part because the opponent's point guard was able to do as much damage in the box score as Phil Pressey was. We all focus on Flip's 3-point shooting, but his biggest issue right now is that he is a defensive liability. Technically Josh Wallace is the point guard, but one figures that Flip will face off versus Frankie Sullivan at times. If Sullivan has a good game, Auburn will hang around a lot longer than anybody wants.

  2. The Coat and Tie Effect. Mizzou plays better after Frank Haith has gotten so mad that he starts stripping off layers of clothing. Granted, this can be funny...

    ...but come on, guys. Make your run early. Don't piss off your coach. Don't make the Rock M live thread a miserable place to commiserate. Take care of business. Learn how to start fast. This isn't as much of a problem at home as on the road, but ... South Carolina and SEMO showed that it can still be a problem. Frank Haith should start whoever he needs to start to send this message. But whoever's on the court ... man oh man, just get your act together early. That's all I ask.

  3. Ross & Brown. Always. If Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross can make at least 40% of their shots from the floor, Missouri is almost impossible to beat. But they rarely do so. Do so.

Prediction

Despite Missouri's plummeting ranking, Ken Pomeroy's projections say Mizzou wins, 77-61. He gives Auburn a 9% chance of an upset. If Mizzou can simply get back to the Top 20 level the Tigers had when everybody was healthy, this projection perhaps approaches 20-25 points. I say Mizzou wins by something like an 81-60 margin, but ... I mean ... I've been wrong before. Nothing about this team instills guaranteed confidence at the moment.

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