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The Auburn Preview: More Tigers, And an Eagle

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The undefeated-in-SEC-play Missouri Tigers put their record to the test against the yet-to-win-a-game-in-conference-play Auburn Tigers. Tigers.

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Game number 2 on the SEC schedule leads the Tigers down south to the less southern Tigers than the last Tigers Missouri played. This version, from Auburn, is lead by a new coach, like us, has a roster that's being made over, like us, and hasn't won a bunch of games yet, hey... just like us!

Presenting the Auburn Tigers

location: Auburn, Alabama

By HHKB Chris: After a quick lay off, the Tigers of Ol’ Mizzou head down to Auburn, Alabama (see map above) to try and defeat the other, other Tigers of the SEC (we're going to keep riding this Tigers joke for a while, so bear with us), those from Auburn…who also have an eagle as a mascot, but we’ll get to that.

Before we dive into the minutiae of this preview let me first point out two things:

  1. Auburn’s court is in no way offensive, seriously, it’s just a nice looking basketball court…tip of the cap to you guys.
  2. My first thought when I think of Auburn Basketball is this cover of Sports Illustrated from November 15, 1999. Chris Porter is just coming at you with the most excited happy dunk you’ll ever see. Have you ever seen such glee on a man’s face? Seriously, I wish I felt that joy all the time. (and his hair is awesome)
Auburn Preview Happy Porter

Anyway, we’re talking about today’s game and not something that happened in ’99 when people we’re freaking out about Y2K and today’s game is big for Mizzou. Get this win and we win the "SEC Best Tiger Award of the Year" which I just made up, but sounds like it should be a real thing.

Speaking of Tigers, that’s Auburn’s mascot, or is it an eagle? I can’t really tell.  Both fit the mascot bill.  Aubie the Tiger is Auburn’s plush happy animal mascot and he looks rabid. Aubuie? The name you came up with for your mascot is a shortening of your school name. In another pull from old SNL skits, "Who are the Ad Wizards who came up with this one?" They had to be on a deadline right? Like a deadline of 5 seconds, "Guys we need the mascot named and you have until I finish this sentence to come up with it, Go!" "AUBIE!" Perfect, let’s run with it.  Looking at Aubie, If there was Mad Tiger disease and not just Mad Cow, Aubie would have it. He’s got goofy eyes and appears to be foaming at the mouth, that or he’s a compulsive tooth brusher. One other thing about Aubie is that he bears a striking resemblance to Tony the Tiger from the Frosted Flakes box. Quick, someone get Maury Povich on line one and let’s run some DNA, Aubie deserves to know who could be responsible for his name.

Look at them and tell me they’re not related.

Tony You ARE the Father

Their other mascot is a "War Eagle." A War Eagle is a bird, in this case a Golden Eagle and he flies around Auburn football games and assumedly preys on vermin.  Currently, Auburn is enjoying War Eagle 7, and his name is Nova, either referring to his speed, or more likely his favorite pick up line, "My name’s Nova…, as in CASANOVA!"  Stay sexy you crazy bird. The students and alumni also use the expression "War Eagle" as interchangeably for pretty much any situation involving opening your mouth to converse with another Auburn student/alum/fan. It can literally mean anything…come to think of it I’m starting to see why Aubie is named Aubie. Brevity and things being easy must be a big deal down at Auburn University.

Speaking of students, Auburns got a lot of them and a lot of famous fancy alumni…well not lots, but there were people I recognized. For this exercise I went to Wikipedia, and funny thing, one of the co founders of Wikipedia is an Auburn grad. Come on down Jimmy Wales! Jimmy Wales went to Auburn and is now trying to guilt you into a $3.00 donation to keep Wikipedia going. Jimmy, I’m not buying it! Jimmy (I’m calling him Jimmy for obvious reasons) was recently quoted as noting that he was not a billionaire, BUT, Jimmy is a millionaire so to you Jimmy, I say get some real problems and cram it. Also, Ken Mattingly who didn’t fly on the Apollo 13 mission that was doomed to failure (you know you saw the movie) went to Auburn. Ken is famous for something he didn’t do, sure he did other things, but his claim to fame is being forced not to work and getting the day off.  Ken, you are a hero to us all. Not a turrible deal is it? Now, these are great alums, but while perusing Jimmy’s site I noticed a list of almost alumni, people who went to Auburn but didn’t finish, their Brad Pitt if you will. And lo and behold, Lionel Richie is sitting right there. Yes, Lionel, it was you I was looking for. Lionel was a Commodore looking for brick houses (if you don’t know what that is, well son you can’t afford it), and he was doing things all night long, all niiiiiiiiight………

For any of you Mizzou fans headed down to Auburn to watch our Tigers take on their Tigers, and you want somewhere to drink, hit up The War Eagle Supper Club. Sounds inoffensive and nice, but this place has something amazing going for it. It’s a bar sure, but it has something called the "Slush Bus." You go out, drink too much and can’t drive, well call the Slush Bus and they will pick you up and take you back to their bar where you can drink until 5 AM, central!

For those not heading down to Alabama, the game is on the SEC Network, so you can watch that from home or some bar or outside on the street through the window of either of those options. Drink what you want, eat what you want but if you’re at a loss might I suggest some French onion Soup (which in France we call Onion Soup) cause it’s gonna be cold tomorrow and you want to stay warm.

About Their Basketball Team

By Sam Snelling: Bruce Pearl! Bruce Pearl Bruce Pearl Bruce Pearl! A man stormed into Auburn during the offseason like a Hurricane and has charmed and won over the faithful on the plains ever since. The problem was that there was still basketball to be played, and when the ball went up, reality on the rebuild settled in. Sound familiar?

Pearl has a small disaster of a roster on his hands. In time, he'll get that program rolling, and I doubt it will take him very long to do so, but they aren't very good right now. They're not very good offensively, they're not terrible on defense, but there isn't a strong identity with this team. If you're a KenPom fan, Missouri ranks 143 right now, Auburn is 142. They're separated by one spot. Missouri is slightly better offensively, slightly worse defensively, but they're playing at Auburn, which gives the southern-more Tigers the advantage.

At this time Auburn is 8-6, with one quality win and a lot of bad losses. They're coming off a 12 point loss to Vanderbilt, but it was at Vanderbilt, and not a lot of teams come out with wins in that monstrosity of a gym.

Auburn is dangerous in front of their home crowd. They beat Xavier in overtime, and have only lost one game (to Coastal Carolina) on their home court, and that was without one of their top 3 scorers in Antoine Mason (30 min, 15.5 ppg). Missouri fans may remember Mason because Missouri was a school the 5th year transfer considered shortly before picking Auburn. As a consolation, the Tigers ended up with Montaque Gill-Caesar instead. Mason is a guy that Missouri should key on, the other wing is K.T. Harrell (32 min, 17.2 ppg) who dropped 27 on Missouri a year ago in a game that Mizzou narrowly won. The last of the big 3 is Cinmeon Bowers (28 min, 13.2 ppg, 11.1 rpg) who is a double-double machine. No matter who picks up the slack on Bowers, they'll have their hands full with the 6'7" brick wall.  Auburn plays 7 players more than 20 minutes, and frequently will play a smaller lineup, which could play into the Tigers (our version) hands.

Now for a closer look at their basketball team, let's chat with somebody who knows them best...

Q&A With College & Magnolia

Thanks to Tuco from College and Magnolia for taking the time to answer our questions and get us prepped for some Auburn v Mizzou Basketball Action!

RockMNation: Bruce Pearl was arguably the hire of the offseason, how do you think he's fared in his first few months on the job?

TucoOff the court, Bruce has been amazing. He works a room like a Catskills comedian. I was at an alumni event where they asked Gus Malzahn to follow him and it was totally unfair to Gus, nobody follows Bruce, not even a man who just improbably took Auburn to within 13 second of a national title in their favorite sport.  Just think about this, for Wednesday night’s game at Vandy, Auburn had almost 1,000 fans show up.  I've been to Auburn home games that may not have had 1,000 fans in attendance.

He's also been huge on the recruiting trail.  He immediately snagged big time transfers with Cinmeon Bowers (the nation's top JUCO transfer), Antoine Mason (the nation's top returning scorer), Trayvon Reed (stop me if you've heard this one, four star athlete gets busted for petty theft and transfers to Auburn), and KC Ross-Miller (a solid guard from New Mexico State).  Rivals has next year's recruiting class ranked 11th in the country.  He's laid a foundation for Auburn to become a player in SEC basketball in the future.
On the court . . . this is going to be a process.  Auburn has shown flashes of being an NCAA tournament ready team, knocking off Xavier in overtime and crushing a decent MTSU team.  Other nights, Auburn has been run off the floor.  We're happy with what Bruce is doing on the court but the rebuilding job was bigger than we'd hoped.

RMN: KT Harrell is the name most Mizzou fans are probably aware of when it comes to Auburn basketball, who else should we be paying attention as a possible impact player for Saturday's game?

TucoAuburn actually has a Big 3: Harrell, Antoine Mason, and Cinmeon Bowers.  You've seen Harrell who’s currently second in the league in scoring.  On top of that you have Antoine Mason, son of former New York Knick Anthony Mason is the nation's returning leading scorer.  He's a muscular, slashing guard who is great at getting to the rim while drawing contact or dishing the ball to a wide open shooter.  Not surprisingly, Auburn is 6-2 when Mason is healthy and in the lineup.  Last, but not least is the self-proclaimed Six Foot Seven Gorilla, Cinmeon Bowers.  Bowers is 278 pounds of spring steel and rawhide and is shockingly athletic who currently leads the SEC in rebounding.  Bowers is a threat to fill a highlight reel and blooper reel every time out.  He will lead breaks (even though Pearl doesn't seem to want him to), dribble behind his back, and lay the ball up with his off hand.  He rarely hits that shot but man does it look pretty.

RMN: Mizzou's best player so far this season has been Johnathan Williams III an inside force and scoring threat, how does Auburn plan to match up with him?

Tuco: I haven't seen much Mizzou basketball in this preseason but I saw parts of the Illinois game and, you're right, Williams is impressive.  He's strong, coordinated for his size, and a really intelligent ball player.  He's a great fit for a team like Mizzou that runs so many motion sets.

Auburn, like Illinois, is going to show Missouri a lot of matchup zone in the halfcourt and when he's down low, he'll be pushing against Cinmeon Bowers who is definitely strong enough to push back if he's inclined to play defense.  With any luck for us, Bowers shows up to play and stays out of foul trouble because he is our only fully-developed, true inside presence.  If Bowers picks up a couple of fouls early, Williams will get the chance to push against Auburn's extremely talented but raw true freshman center Trayvon Reed.

I'd guess Williams gets 10-15 points (around his average) and close to 10 rebounds against Auburn.

RMN: Considering it's Pearl's first year, what would you consider a successful first season when all is said and done?

Tuco: Bruce Pearl tells a story that goes something like this: "We restarted the tipoff club here in Auburn.  250 people attended the first meeting, and it was incredible though the average age of the attendees was 72.  They all keep coming up to me saying, 'Coach, we want you to know that we're going to be patient.'  I said 'Patient? Some of y'all don't have time for patience.  If I take my time getting there some of y'all won't be around to see it!'"  Bruce wants success immediately and forever.  So do we, but this year, hosting an NIT game would be good enough and something to grow on.  More importantly I want to go into every SEC game (except Kentucky) feeling like Auburn has a chance.  We won't win them all, we may not win half, but if we feel and are competitive, that's a good first step.

RMN: Finally, what are your predictions for this game? What are the keys for your Tigers to pull out a victory on Saturday? Score prediction?

Tuco: TV basketball schedules are evil.  Mizzou has to play Thursday night in Columbia against a very good LSU team, wake up Friday, go to some classes, travel at some point to Auburn and be ready to go against a physical Auburn team Saturday night.  We had to do that earlier this year, going from Lubbock (editor’s note – we feel your pain) to Auburn with 48 hours between tipoffs with classes in between.  The result was our only home loss of the year and our players looked exhausted. How Mizzou handles a similar travel situation will be a huge key Saturday night.

As for Auburn, we win when everyone gets involved.  Auburn's big three all average more than 13 points per game and at this point we expect them to be in double digits every night with Bowers putting up a double-double. Auburn has been at its best when a role player star shows up and has a big game, in this case the most likely candidate would be Malcolm Canada or KC Ross-Miller.  If one of these two gets hot, Auburn will roll.  I think Auburn wins 65-58.

Big thanks to Tuco and the team at College&Mag for taking the time to talk to us. Please them a follow and visit their site for everything Auburn. Like most of the SEC, it's pretty football focused!

We've done everything at this point but talk about the keys to beating Auburn, so let's wrap this up with some keys to winning!

1) Own the Glass

Auburns most frequently used lineup is a 4 guard set with their big being Bowers, followed by Harrell and Mason and two point guards. Even when Auburn goes "big" they aren't that big. They have a 7'2" freshmen who is a bean pole, and nobody else is over 6'8. Bowers is 6'7, and Auburn has the most success offensively when they go to a smaller lineup. Sound familiar?

But even Auburns small is smaller than Missouri's small. Missouri

2) Value The Ball on the Road

Auburn isn't very good at a lot of things, but the one key that Bruce Pearl has carried over from his previous coaching experience has been the ability to turn teams over. Missouri has show the ability to turn the ball over, but have gotten much better at taking care of the ball. In a hostile environment, it will be vital to limit the turnovers and maximize their possessions. Auburn isn't a great defensive team, and if you don't turn the ball over against their pressure you can get more basket attempts, and with as tough as a time as Missouri has at scoring the ball at times, the more shots they take the better. Don't give the ball up voluntarily.

3) Three Point Makes Are Good

Missouri is a surprisingly solid three point shooting team, thanks in part to Namon Wright taking a larger percentage of those three's in recent games. They haven't really had to do it on the road, as they have only had one true road game (the blowout against Oklahoma, in which the Tigers shot really well from 3-point ranage). Auburn however defies all logic in holding their opponents to less than 24% from behind the arc. If the Tigers can find a way to shoot closer to their season average, and hold KT Harrell from going off from behind the arc, they have a very good chance to win this game.

So these teams are fairly evenly matched. However over the course of the last few weeks Missouri has looked like a markedly better team. The problem with this matchup is that it's on the road, and the young Tigers haven't had the chance to have to fight through that adversity yet. You expect, with young teams, that road games will be very tough especially early. And this is early.

I feel like Missouri is the better team. And they've faced tougher competition over the past 4 games. While Auburn was beating Texas Southern by 1, Missouri was losing to Illinois on a last second fade away 3. When Auburn beat MTSU by 16, Missouri was fighting Oklahoma State in an Overtime 2 point loss. Then while Auburn was beating a Division 2 opponent, Missouri was struggling with Lipscomb. Finally, to open conference play, Auburn had to play in one of the toughest places to play at Vandy, while Missouri was dispatching LSU. So, again, I feel like Missouri is the better team. They're younger, more talented, and should be able to win this game if they get a few breaks.

Getting those breaks will be the challenge for this team... on the road. It's tough to pin this game down, I want to pick MIzzou, but they aren't favored in Vegas or by KenPom. In fact they're giving up 4 in Vegas and projected to lose by 4 on KenPom. Amazingly, I'm going to go against what the odds are telling me and say that Missouri wins this game. I think JW3 doesn't have anyone on the Auburn roster who can guard him, and he's playing so confidently right now. I also think that with the Southern Tigers lack of size, Mizzou will be able to use a multitude of players on Cinmeon Bowers to keep JW3 out of foul trouble.

If that happens, I see Mizzou squeaking out a close win, I'll say Mizzou 71, Auburn 66.

Leave your predictions and trifecta picks below if you like. For a Trifecta I'm going smart money: JW3, Clark, Shamburger.