Auburn vs. South Carolina basketball preview: Tigers aim for sweep of Gamecocks

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn's regular season is winding down with just four games remaining. How will the Tigers fare against South Carolina?

This is time of the season when I struggle with these posts the most. I think a lot of it is self-induced pressure because I recognize I am not a writer as in teller of stories or a writer as in sage of defensive schemes. In real life, I do a lot of writing for a living, but writing in terms of training manuals, process documentation and technical documentation -- really boring stuff that generally relies on numbers, which is probably why I love Kenpom.com and like to include a few stats. Mostly I am "stuck" because we have reached the point in which I feel complacency setting in, and that makes me feel horrible as a fan.

This season has shown improvement over the last few seasons, and I feel good about saying Auburn has talent on the floor, but there are some tendencies that just cant be shaken. It is great to have a double-headed monster on offense (K.T. Harrell and Chris Denson), but it is puzzling to see the bench struggle so much with getting points on the board. The Tigers have some three-point action now, but the perimeter defense still leaves open questions -- did any of you watch the Vandy game? I go back and forth on why Auburn's bigs haven't been developed, because an inside game certainly would've meant strong defense and points in the post this year. Right? Maybe? I don't know anymore. I know talent generally trumps heart, but good grief, would it kill the basketball gods to smile on Auburn just once? I mean, it was great to beat Clemson and Boston College, but wouldn't you give anything to have the games against Northwestern State and Illinois back? How many last-minute games can slip away -- Ole Miss, Missouri, Florida (twice), Kentucky? The Tigers have four games left, two at home and two on the road. Then there is the SEC Tournament. If there is hope for a .500 record, now is the time to cement it. I digress, and I realize I just spewed a bunch of stuff you already know.

In the last matchup against the South Carolina Gamecocks, Auburn emerged with the W, 79-74. The Tigers are 12-13 overall and 4-10 in league play. South Carolina hasn't fared any better at 10-17 overall and 3-11 in the conference. The Gamecocks are not a road team, with a 0-10 record in opponents' buildings, so perhaps that bodes well for the Tigers. Kenpom has Auburn ranked at No. 121 in the nation, with South Carolina at 146, and a predicted Auburn win with a 78-72 final -- a whopping 69 percent chance of a victory. Kenpom also predicted a win against Vandy, so do what you want with the information. Something about this game leaves me uneasy. On paper, it should be a non-nail-biter. Right? Maybe? I don't know anymore. (Yes I realize this is the second time I have used this word sequence.) If it comes down to the last minute of play, well, pass me a giant Toblerone and a single malt scotch. No Toblerone or single malt? Freeze a Snickers and have it with a Bushmills Black Bush neat, trust me on this one. Hey, I have to give you something noteworthy in this post.

Numbers at a Glance (SEC games)

Auburn South Carolina
Scoring Average 69.9 67.6
Scoring Defense 72.6 72.9
Scoring Margin -2.7 -5.3
Field Goal % .429 .411
Field Goal % Defense .431 .467
3-Point % .315 .376
3-Point % Defense .369 .356
Free Throw % .744 .714
Rebounding Average 32.1 33.6
Rebounding Margin -3.4 +1.1
Turnover Average 12.6 15.2
Turnover Margin +0.0 -1.4

Personnel

Your expected Auburn Tigers starters are as follows:

  • K.T. Harrell. 6'4, 216 pounds, junior guard from Montgomery. Harrell is sixth in the SEC in scoring (18.7 ppg) and third in the SEC for free throw percentage (.857).
  • Allen Payne. 6'6, 225, senior forward from Cincinnati. 70 percent of his rebounds have been defensive boards (98 of 140). 109 career steals, eighth in the conference, 1.4 steals per game tied for sixth in the league.
  • Asauhn Dixon-Tatum. 7'0, 226, senior center from Anderson, Ind. He averages 2.0 blocks per game, fourth in the conference and 68th nationally. His block percentage, according to Kenpom is 36th in the country.
  • Chris Denson. 6'2, 181, senior guard from Columbus, Ga. CD3 is the leading scorer in the league (20.3 ppg) and 21st in the country. He had a career-high 32 points against Alabama earlier this season and has 1,126 career points (25th in AU history).
  • Tahj Shamsid-Deen. 5'10, 163, freshman point guard from Decatur, Ga. TSD has started all 23 games, and his 2.88 assists per game is fourth in the league among freshman point guards. He has 46 assists, 17 turnovers in the last 16 games combined. He had a career best five threes against Florida.

The benchy bench bench:

  • Malcolm Canada. 6'3, 224, junior point guard from Austin, Texas. 40 percent of his points scored have been at the free throw line (29-of-37, .784 pct). 82 percent of his rebounds are on the defensive glass (37-of-45).
  • Alex Thompson. 6'8, 204, freshman forward from Dothan. Thompson has a .333 three-point percentage and 50 percent of his shots are from behind the perimeter (12-of-24).
  • Dion Wade. 6'5, 170, freshman guard from Antwerp, Belgium. 74 percent of his points are from beyond the arc (17-of-55 made three-pointers). He is 13th among league freshman for three-point percentage -- .309 with at least 10 attempts.
  • Matthew Atewe. 6'9, 250, freshman from Brampton, Ontario. Atewe has at least one block in 13 of 19 games. Career-high 13 rebounds (nine on the offensive glass) against Kentucky and 24 total over the last four games (6.0 rpg).

South Carolina's probable starters are sophomore forwards Michael Carrera (6'5, 214), Mindaugas Kacinas (6'7, 210), freshman guards Sindarius Thornwell (6'5, 206), Duane Notice (6'2, 221), and senior guard Brenton Williams (5'11, 172). Most likely off the bench for the Gamecocks are forward/center Demetrius Henry (6'9, 215), forward Laimonas Chatkevicius (6'11, 250), forward Brian Steele (6'5, 200) and guard Jaylen Shaw (6'0, 182).

How to Watch

Time: 8:00 p.m. CT, Auburn, A.L.

TV: FSN

Radio: AU affiliates, Sirius93/XM200

Online: ESPN3

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