Auburn vs. Tennessee basketball preview: Senior Night

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

In the last home game for the season, Auburn will honor its seniors and their families -- oh yeah, and host Tennessee

Folks, we are down to the last two games of the regular season -- one at home and one on the road. Auburn gets Tennessee at home Wednesday for Senior Night and heads to Texas A&M on Saturday. Before we do the usual preview, let's take a moment to highlight the three seniors who are set for their final game at Auburn Arena.

Center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, No. 0

When ADT graduated from high school, he was 6'9 and 190 pounds. The Anderson, Ind., native now stands at 7'0 and 226. The JUCO transfer from Chattahochee Tech has always been one of my favorite guys to watch. He officially won my heart when we spied him practicing alone on A-Day last year and then learned of him speaking at the D.A.R.E. camp this summer. He will be dearly missed next season.

On the season, he leads the team in rebounds (166 in 27 games, 6.1 per game, tied for 13th in the SEC), specifically offensive rebounds (76, 2.8 per game) and blocked shots (52, 1.9 per game, tied for fourth in the SEC). According to kenpom.com, he is 24th in the country for offensive rebound percentage (this is the percentage of possible offensive rebounds a player gets and is calculated as "PlayerOR/[%Min * (Team OR + Opp DR)]"), and 35th for block percentage (this is the percentage of opponents' two-point shots blocked while the player is on the court. The formula is "Blocks/(%Min * Opp 2-pt attempts)"). He averages 22.1 mins per game.

Forward Allen Payne, No. 2

When someone says glue guy, I immediately think of Allen Payne. You will not be able to convince me that anyone else works as hard as he does or plays with as much heart as he does. Payne hails from Cincinnati, Ohio, (Winton Woods High School) and we at College and Mag often like to refer to him as the Payne Train. He was a guy who did the work to improve each season, and I wish we could have him for just one more.

Payne leads the Tigers in steals (34 total in 27 games, 1.3 per game, sixth in the conferece) and defensive rebounds (105, 3.9 per game). He averages 28.2 mins per game.

Guard Chris Denson, No. 3

There isn't much I can tell you about the guy from Columbus, Ga,. that you probably don't already know. He is 24th on the Auburn career points list with 1,154, and only needs 30 more to surpass Charles Barkley. With a 19.9 points per game this year, he is second in the league and 28th in the nation. His ability to drive in the lane is a sight to behold.

He leads the team in field goal attempts (377, 14 per game) and field goals made (177, 6.6 per game), as well as free throw attempts (246, 9.1 per game) and field goals made (162, 6.0 per game). His field goal percentage of .446 is sixth in the league. He is responsible for 30.7 percent of Auburn's possessions and 31.2 percent of the Tigers' shots. He averages 32.1 minutes per game.

Auburn vs. Tennessee

The Tigers (13-14 overall, 5-11 SEC) square off Wednesday night against the Volunteers (18-11, 9-7 SEC). Auburn, while guaranteed to not finish last in the league, can finish no higher than an 11th seed in the SEC Tournament. Tennessee, on the other hand, is seeking a top-four seed in the tourney. The Vols are currently tied for fourth with Arkansas. Kenpom.com ranks the Tigers 121st in the naiton, and the Volunteers firmly at No. 21. With a predicted score of 74-68 in favor of Tennessee, Kenpom gives the Tigers only a 28 percent chance of a W at home.

Auburn hasn't beaten Tennessee since Feb. 7, 2009 (78-77 in Auburn). In the last meeting on Jan. 15, Tennessee hosted Auburn came away with a 78-67 victory. The Tigers had gotten off to a rough start in league play prior to that game by losing two heartbreakers to Ole Miss (65-62) and Missouri (70-68). They never led in that game, but the Volunteers never ran away with the game, either -- their largest lead was only 12 in the middle of the second half. Auburn was decent in the paint -- 32 points to UT's 38 -- and even scored more off turnovers (16 to 12). However, Tennessee dominated on fast-break points (17 to 2. TWO!). Denson poured in 24 and K.T. Harrell put in 15, but the Volunteers owned the boards (42-28) and free throws (23-of-30, compared to 9-of-14).

None of this looks that great on paper, and while it is purely sentimental to think emotion will win out, one has to hope that in this final home game, the seniors show out and the Tigers emerge victorious.

Stats at a Glance (SEC games)

Auburn Tennessee
Scoring Average 69.9 68.4
Scoring Defense 72.2 62.4
Scoring Margin -2.3 +6.0
Field Goal % .422 .437
Field Goal % Defense .433 .411
3-Point % .307 .335
3-Point % Defense .376 .353
Free Throw % .737 .724
Rebounding Average 32.5 38.4
Rebounding Margin -3.2 +7.9
Turnover Average 12.6 12.0
Turnover Margin +0.4 -2.0

Personnel

Auburn Tigers

Your expected starters are as follows:

K.T. Harrell. 6'4, 216 pounds, junior guard from Montgomery. Harrell is sixth in the SEC in scoring (18.5 ppg) and third in the SEC for free throw percentage (.868). He has not missed more than one free thrown in each of the last 12 games and is 57-for-63 (.905) from Jan. 22 to March 1.

Allen Payne. 6'6, 225, senior forward from Cincinnati. 70 percent of his rebounds have been defensive boards (105 of 150). He is 20th in the league for rebounds per game (5.6). Payne averages 1.3 steals per game for 10th in the SEC.

Asauhn Dixon-Tatum. 7'0, 226, senior center from Anderson, Ind. He averages 1.9 blocks per game, fourth in the conference and 70th nationally. He averages 6.1 rebounds per game for 15th in the league.

Chris Denson. 6'2, 181, senior guard from Columbus, Ga. CD3 is the second-leading scorer in the league (19.9 ppg) and 28th in the country. He had a career-high 32 points against Alabama earlier this season and has 1,154 career points (24th in AU history).

Tahj Shamsid-Deen. 5'10, 163, freshman point guard from Decatur, Ga. TSD has started all 27 games, and his 2.89 assists per game is fourth in the league among freshman point guards. He has 52 assists, 18 turnovers in the last 18 games combined. He had a career-best five three-pointers at Florida.

The benchy bench bench:

Malcolm Canada. 6'3, 224, junior point guard from Austin, Texas. 44 percent of his points scored have been at the free throw line (35-of-43, .814 pct). 78 percent of his rebounds are on the defensive glass (39-of-50).

Jordon Granger. 6'8, 200, sophomore forward from St. Louis, Mo. Career-high seven rebounds against Alabama and a .500 FG percentage (4-of-8) over the last three games.

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. 21 of his 27 made field goals are from behind the arc (78 percent). He is 13th among league freshman for three-point percentage -- .304 with at least 10 attempts.

Matthew Atewe. 6'9, 250, freshman from Brampton, Ontario. Atewe has at least one block in 13 of 21 games. Career-high 13 rebounds (nine on the offensive glass) against Kentucky and 28 total over the last four games (6.0 per game).

Tennessee Volunteers

Probable starters for the Volunteers include guards Antonio Barton (6'2, 178), Jordan McRae (6'6, 185) and Josh Richardson (6'6, 190), and forwards Jeronne Maymon (6'8, 260) and Jarnell Stokes (6'8, 260). Martin will rotate in Derek Reese (6'8, 215), Armani Moore (6'5, 215) and Darius Thompson (6'5, 181).

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