13. Auburn Tigers
Last season: 15 - 20 (4 - 14 in conference)
My Prediction: 4 - 14 (in conference)
College & Magnolia's Prediction: 14 - 4 (in conference)
The Masses Prediction: 7.9 - 10.1
In his first year in charge of the Tigers, Pearl put together a patchwork roster of transfers in hopes of being able to turn the tide of an Auburn program that hadn’t seen .500 in 6 years. The early gamble didn’t work, as a senior laden team could only manage 4 conference wins, and 15 wins overall. However you know that Pearl wasn’t sitting still during his first season, as he was out on the recruiting trail, and building excitement down on the plains of Alabama. Following a successful, although a controversial, run at Tennessee, Pearl knows the lay of the SEC land as well as anyone. He’ll recruit and he’ll coach with high energy, and he’ll have Auburn rolling before too long.
WHO THEY LOST
Part of Bruce Pearl’s plan for a quick turnaround at Auburn was to go all in with experience. He had an All SEC type performer in K.T. Harrell, he just had to fill in some pieces around him. He took another wing scorer in grad transfer Antoine Mason, a 5th year transfer at point guard in K.C. Ross-Miller, and added those two with senior guard Malcolm Canada, and things didn’t quite workout. Harrell had another great season statistically, Mason fought off injuries and had to deal with the sudden death of his father. Miller played okay, but didn't exactly blow the doors off. Canada is a great story, and fans loved him, but he was of little impact on the floor. Thompson and Purchase were guys that never quite had a big impact, and both went on to smaller schools at Samford and Hawaii.
WHO IS COMING BACK?
|Kareem Canty||r-junior||G||REDSHIRT -- Transfer from Marshall|
Cinmeon Bowers | Senior | Forward
player to watch
Bowers was one of the top JUCO players in the country and was forced into a role at Auburn where he was basically the only reliable low post player. He was the only rebounder at times, grabbing one out of every three rebounds the Tigers got. He ranked in the top 50 of both offensive and defensive rebounding rate, which is good. But Bowers is a guy that drives you nuts, he’s horribly inefficient with extremely high usage rates. If you look at his advanced metrics he was in the top 100 players in the country for percentage of possessions used, which means he shot a lot, or turned it over when he touched the ball. For a guy that has a %possession near 30% to have an offensive rating below 90 is bad. He made only 43% of his two point shots, which is very low for a post player, and shot under 50% from the free throw line as well. Bowers has to improve on those numbers this year, and he should as he’ll have at least a little more help on the interior this season.
Of the players returning for their second year with Bruce Pearl, there’s not many that you fall in love with. We talked about Bowers above, however I’ve always been a fan of Tahj Shamsid-Deen's competitiveness, he's been very underrated for what he brought to the team, even though he struggled to stay healthy last year, he was still mostly productive in scant opportunity. He's also started out this season struggling to stay healthy, if Tahj can't go, the backcourt gets shallow in a hurry. Jordon Granger is a great athlete who gets too complacent shooting three point shots. He's more of a natural combo forward who isn't particularly good on the wing, or on the block. T.J. Lang is a guy that came on late and played well, so I could see him turning into a good player. Where Pearl hopes his returning cast gets some help is from Marshall transfer Kareem Canty, a high scoring combo guard who sat out last year. And it looks like he could be a contender to start this year.
WHO ARE THE NEWCOMERS?
|Sr||Tyler Harris||6'10||228||Grad TRANSFER -- Providence|
Danjel Purifoy | Freshman | Guard
player to watch
If Auburn is going to have success this year, it’s going to have to come from players that are the longer term solutions for the rebuilding program. The top candidate for that is Purifoy because of the offensive firepower he brings to the wing. Purifoy has a compact jumper (a good thing) while also being a top flight athlete. All freshmen will have a period of adjustment as they get to the next level, but the shorter that period is for Purifoy the better Auburn will be. If he can step up and provide scoring from the wing, Auburn will be a much tougher team. The big question at this point is if he'll get NCAA clearance. If he does, he'll be an important player for the Tigers.
Fortunately for Pearl, he can recruit, and Auburn has an exciting class of newcomers. Chief among them is a 5th year transfer in Tyler Harris, who should be able to take a lot of pressure off of Cinmeon Bowers. Bowers struggled being the only big throughout most of the season, and Harris provides some beef to help out inside. Horace Spencer is a workhorse post player who should be able to provide an instant impact, and the same with Danjel Purifoy on the wing. Purifoy is a bouncy athlete who still needs some refinement, but with his athleticism should help immediately in Bruce Pearl’s attacking system. New Williams is a highly regarded combo guard who shoots it well from the outside and is good enough with the ball to run the point full time. T.J. Dunans is a big guard with talent who should be able to help right away out of Junior College. He’s a slasher with enough of a jump shot to keep you honest.
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing|
|Kareem Canty||New Williams||Jordon Granger|
|Tahj Shamsid-Deen||Bryce Brown||Danjel Purifoy|
|Cinmeon Bowers||Tyler Harris|
|Devin Waddell||Horace Spencer|
Last year everybody liked the momentum that Bruce Pearl brought to Auburn and expectations got a little out of whack when people realize what the roster actually looked like. Too often the expectations got inflated, and perhaps the more casual observer thought that the rebuild was going to be quick. But the roster was not in good shape a year ago, and it’s still probably a season away from being pretty good. Pearl has made a lot of headway with recruiting, and brought in a very talented class, but I like them more to Missouri’s class from 2014 instead of anything that Kentucky brought in. Danjel Purifoy, Horace Spencer and New Williams should all be big contributors this year, but expecting them to carry an otherwise shaky roster is perhaps expecting too much. Even the lineup in the first exhibition game was odd, in that they were forced to start Jordon Granger on the wing, with Bowers and Harris in the post. This isn't going to be Auburns best scoring offensive unit if that's what they're going to have to trot out. But frankly, the depth still isn't great.
The amount of talent that Pearl is scheduling to bring in for the 2016 classes as well as the 2017 classes will be more than enough to get the Tigers rolling right along. I still think this rebuild is another full season or two away from taking off. Cinmeon Bowers is such a high usage player, with lower production, that I wonder if Auburn's offense will be worse than last year. Perhaps the Junior College players can provide enough of a punch to lift them up, it’s just hard to imagine Auburn getting anyone more productive than what they lost in KT Harrell. If Auburn fans were expecting a quick turnaround, they weren’t paying attention to the roster that Tony Barbee left Bruce Pearl, and Pearl again is having to find ways to make up for a lack of experience in hopes to compete in the SEC. Again they’re likely to be counting on players like Jordon Granger, who is athletic but inconsistent, and unlikely to be reliable at this stage of his career. Tyler Harris was mostly productive over his career at North Carolina State and Providence, and he should be able to help with a rotation of Granger, Bowers and Spencer. Traveon Reed is a mystery, he was added as a late recruit and was little more than just another guy on the floor most of the season as a freshman.
T.J. Lang was a player who started to put things together a little bit towards the end of last season, and that should help as the backcourt is going to be all sorts of interesting with Tahj Shamsid-Deen and Lang as the only returning players with a host of freshmen, in addition to the talented and explosive Purifoy. Over all I would think one of the freshmen is going to be expected to start, and Purifoy may have to as well, and that would be two starting freshmen in the backcourt. I’m just not sure how much I expect that to be a recipe for success.
If there is one reason for excitement, it's that Pearl is still on the sidelines, and things will at least be interesting. I expect Auburn to be tough enough at home, chaotic enough on the road, and interesting enough to follow that the excitement carries through into 2016 when they start to make their first steps towards the top tier of the SEC basketball schools. Help is coming and coming soon, but it looks like this could be another rocky season for the Tigers.
Auburn basketball is a significant rebuilding project. We expect this year to be better than last year but things still aren’t where we hope they’ll be on the Plains. The team is talented but thin. The newcomers are much more athletic than the people they replaced. Unlike last year’s team, this team will play fast and above the rim. We may win four conference games, we may win twelve, but they’re going to be fun to watch.
Looking at our big men, Cin Bowers is back. Last year, his stats were amazing almost by default. He was second in the SEC in rebounding because missed shots land somewhere and no one else on the team seemed interested in collecting them. I think his game will improve but his stats may take a step back with our added depth inside. Newcomer Horace Spencer is an enforcer down low. He has incredible instincts and hustle which translates into rebounds and blocks. His offensive game is a work in progress. Tyler Harris will also add some much-needed length to Auburn’s team. Trayvon Reed’s status is uncertain. He may come back in January or he might be walking the earth like Caine from Kung Fu.
Our guard play will be much more athletic this year. TJ Lang came on strong at the end of last season and we hope to see more from him this year. New Williams is exciting: Click this link to see why! Kareem Canty gives Auburn a true point guard for the first time since … I’m not sure but I think Bill Clinton was president then. TJ Dunans and Bryce Brown will try to fill the big shoes left by KT Harrell as our shooters. If Danjel Purifoy is cleared by the NCAA (like they say, it’s an ongoing investigation), he may come in immediately as the best player on the team.
Auburn this year may be maddeningly inconsistent. I’m not sure if we have more than 8-9 guys who can play ball on an SEC level and several of them are battling injuries. If the preseason games have been any indication, we’re going to score some points and hope to hold on. We’re averaging 106.5 points per game but had to beat D-II Indianapolis in overtime. Auburn is a team that belongs in that 6-10 range in the SEC. If they stay healthy and Danjel gets cleared to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse, this is a team that could finish with 10-12 conference wins and play postseason basketball. If things break bad, we could win only 5-7 conference games.
We had the 20th ranked recruiting class last year so this year’s team has a lot of good young talent. Next year’s class is ranked near the top 10 with some big recruits still on the board. Two Rivals 100 recruits are already committed for 2017. Come what may in 2015-16, Auburn fans think the future is bright.
|Tuco||College & Magnolia|
For the Bama, Tennessee and Mississippi State (to a lesser extent) fans all a-twitter because you hired a guy that actually knows what a basketball is and where it goes, use Auburn as a cautionary tale. You can come in and be charismatic and have a great recruiting class in year 2, but this doesn't always lead to greatness in year one. Case in point the Auburn Tigers. Bruce Pearl came in and lit the house on fire (not a bbq fire, nothing to see here NCAA) with excitement and basketball was back on the plains! Then the season happened and well things weren't great. The Tigers did do a little something knocking A&M essentially out of the tournament with a second round win in Nashville (ha!) but otherwise they had an up and down year that had them finishing towards the bottom of the SEC. This season they have a terrific recruiting class coming back and Cinmeon Bowers, a player who gets fouls called against your post player for looking at him funny is still here. Bowers will laugh about said foul and you'll get pissed. YOU BROKE KEANAU POST, BOWERS AND I DIDN'T LIKE IT! Other than that, everyone you've probably heard of is gone. KT Harrell, gone somewhere else. Malcolm Canada, with that name, if basketball doesn't work out, well I bet we know what profession that name oozes. Antoine Mason, also gone. So, what's left? Not much! This year probably won't be great for Auburn, but next year and beyond, the Tigers should be really quite good. But, who cares? We're talking about now and now they may be the worst of all the Tigers in the SEC and doesn't that make you happy Mizzou fan? One more year, enjoy it while you can Mizzou fans. And Auburn fans, I've started the Bruce Pearl leaves clock, just hope you don't have a good year this year, or well, he may be gone to another gig...
About the preview: Each SBNation site was asked for one representative to submit a Game-by-Game pick of the upcoming SEC season to get a different look than if we just asked them to submit a ranking by team, or a prediction for their record. It yielded some interesting results as you can see.
GP: Games Played
%min: Percentage of team minutes played that were available
%poss: Percentage of usage, when a player is the cause of the end of possession (turnover or shot)
%points: Percentage of points scored vs team points
%rbds: Percentage of rebounds vs team rebounds
eFG%: Field Goal percentage with added weight of 50% for three point shots made
%3pm: Percentage of 3-point makes to team 3-point makes
ORtg: Average points scored per 100 possessions (if the player was responsible for each possession)
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