Auburn opens the season with two exhibition games -- Victory (Oct. 30) and Georgia Southwestern (Nov. 5) -- followed by the first official game (Nov. 9)against IPFW. All three games are at home with 7 p.m. CT tip-offs The Tigers then head north for the Charleston Classic at the TD Arena (Nov. 15) for their first major test of the season. The tournament consists of eight teams -- Auburn, Baylor, Boston, College of Charleston, Colorado, Dayton, Murray State and St. John's. Each team plays one game per day (Nov. 15, 16 and 18), with the two undefeated teams meeting in the final game.
Looking at the potential slate of games for the 2012 Charleston Classic, Auburn's test is more like a midterm than a pop quiz. Auburn opens their tournament action against Murray State and will go on to face either St. John's or College of Charleston. In the Charleston Classic Finale, the Tigers will play a fourth, non-bracketed game against Boston College (Nov. 21) at the Conte Forum in Boston.
2012 Charleston Classic
Thursday, Nov. 15
Game 1: Dayton vs. Colorado, 11:30 a.m., ESPN3
Game 2: Baylor vs. Boston College, 2 p.m., ESPNU
Game 3: St. John's vs. College of Charleston, 4 p.m., ESPNU
Game 4: Murray State vs. Auburn, 8 p.m., ESPN3
Friday, Nov. 16
Game 5: W1 vs. W2, 11:30 a.m., ESPNU
Game 6: L1 vs. L2, 1:30 p.m., ESPNU
Game 7: W3 vs. W4, 4:30 p.m., ESPN3
Game 8: L3 vs. L4, 6:30 p.m., ESPN3
Sunday, Nov. 18
Game 9: L6 vs. L8, 11 a.m., ESPN3
Game 10: W6 vs. W8, 1 p.m., ESPN3
Game 11: L5 vs. L7, 5 p.m., ESPNU
Game 12: W5 vs. W7, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
Charleston Classic Finale
Wednesday, Nov. 21
Auburn at Boston College, 2 p.m., ESPN3
Saturday, Nov. 24
Charleston vs. Baylor, TBD, ESPN3
*All times are CT
Murray State has won the last three Ohio Valley Conference titles and is already projected to make it four in a row by CBSSports.com. The Racers roared through last year with a 31-2 record, which included a twenty-three game win streak. The Racers were one of thirteen teams to have their midnight madness aired on ESPNU this year. They were the sole mid-major in a collection of traditional basketball powerhouses that included Georgetown, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse. Steve Prohm's Racers return their All-American senior point guard Isaiah Canaan (6'1, 195). The Biloxi, Miss., native averaged 19 points per game in 2011-12 -- the 24th leading scorer in the nation. The OVC Player of the Year was 46.8 percent from the field, 45.6 percent from behind the 3-point arc and 87.3 percent from the foul line. Canaan is joined by fellow senior forward Ed Daniel (6'7, 228) who hails from Birmingham's Woodlawn High. Daniel was the team's leading rebounder (11th in the OVC) with 5.5 per game and also the team's leading blocker with 50 blocked shots. He went only two games last season without an offensive rebound.
How do you beat the Racers? Only two teams from last year can answer that question – Tennessee State and Marquette. Three things have to happen in your favor: scoring points off turnovers, rebounding faster and fiercer than Kim Kardashian, and making the most of the final minutes in the game. Murray State is quick and relentless. Not only is Canaan an excellent game manager, he can go off on a 3-spree. Daniel can attack the boards like there’s no tomorrow. They lost the lead for good to Tennessee State with 4:12 remaining and to Marquette with 6:14 remaining.
Auburn must be able to contain Canaan and win the rebound battles with Daniel. The Tigers have to present a 3-point menace of their own and the big guys have to win it in the trenches. Auburn cannot miss "gimme" scoring opportunities such as free throws and easy layups. The Tigers must force turnovers and maintain critical composure in those last minutes. If there was ever a time to get mean and nasty on D, this is definitely it.
Boston College lost ten letterman from 2010-11 and headed into the 2011-12 season with a dozen new guys. Five starters emerged from the nine freshmen and the three transfers. Needless to say, it was a tough year culminating in a 9-22 record. Those nine wins included a February win over a ranked FSU squad (No. 15). Steve Donahue, in only his third year at Boston College, returns most of his team. While only sophomores, they do have the advantage of having racked up significant playing time last year. The Golden Eagles' go to guy has to be Ryan Anderson (unanimously named to last year’s ACC All-Freshmen Team, along with Duke’s Austin Rivers). He averaged 11.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Dennis Clifford returns to the front court with him with 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Their back court is projected to consist of Danny Rubin, Jordan Daniels, Patrick Heckman and Lonnie Jackson. Daniels led the team with 82 assists and Jackson was the 3-point guy with a total of 57 for the season.
Auburn cannot overlook Boston College, especially since they meet in Conte Forum on BC's campus. As Boston College looks to gain consistency this year, Auburn can rely on its experienced seniors – Frankie Sullivan, Josh Wallace, Rob Chubb – for defense. The incoming Tigers and the solid juniors -- Allen Payne and Chris Denson -- should be more than enough to give the Eagles fits at home. However, as mentioned before, Auburn has to make a statement with shooting. The Tigers may be able to push the tempo against the Eagles in transition. It is imperative for Auburn to limit fouls, make free throws and find its own rhythm. The BC home crowd will make noise, but Auburn must make noise of its own.
The Tigers have the opportunity to make a very big statement in November with just these two games. While a loss for either game will not kill an entire season, two wins can definitely provide confidence before FSU comes to town and SEC conference play begins. We will have a more detailed preview for both games once the season gets underway and we can get a look at all three teams in action. War Damn Hoops and #20PLUS!