Auburn basketball has not been ranked in quite some time and has not been to the Big Dance since my Junior year on the Plains (2003). The late 90s and early 00s were pretty good years for Auburn basketball, and when Auburn basketball is good, the atmosphere surrounding it can be electric. It was a raucous Beard-Eaves after clinching the regular season SEC title in 1999 that convinced my brother there was no where he could go to school but Auburn.
Auburn is not ranked in this pre-season Top 25 for good reason. Auburn has not been very good at basketball in a number of years. There is reason to hope, though. Bruce Pearl has sparked some life into a program that desperately needed it. He has the facilities and is bringing in the talent to win at Auburn. If he shows the product on the court is worthy, then I have no doubts that Auburn fans will show up in numbers.
There are only two teams from the Southeastern Conference ranked in this pre-season poll. Surprise, surprise, those two teams are Florida and Kentucky. Not only are they Top 25, they are Top 10. While those are also the only two teams in this ranking that Auburn will face in the upcoming season, the Tigers do face a few teams that went to the Big Dance last season.
So let's take a look at the rankings.
|RANK||TEAM||RECORD||POINTS||1ST PLACE VOTES|
|17||San Diego State||31-5||251||0|
|22||Southern Methodist Univ.||27-10||149||0|
Now let's turn to some of our Basketball experts here at College and Magnolia and see what they have to say about Auburn basketball's chances of being in the mix this time next year:
If you haven't already seen it, you really need to go read runyogasurf's article on Marinara, Chris Davis, and Auburn basketball.
Let's hear/read what Tuco has to say:
I'm fighting the urge to barn really hard here. Unsuccessfully. SEE Y'ALL IN INDIANAPOLIS! WE'RE FINALLY TAKING CHUCK PERSON TO THE FINAL FOUR!
Looking at the schedule realistically we have two things working against us in nonconference play. The first is our schedule. Most of our nonconference foes played in the NCAA tournament last year and some (like Oklahoma State and Xavier) are traditional powers that will always field solid teams. That said, while our nonconference slate isn't filled with pushovers, there aren't any real unbeatable teams there either. Only one team (Clemson) received votes in the AP preseason top 25 and they only received a single vote.
The second problem is that we have a hole in our lineup at center. Transfers Mason, Bowers, and Ross-Miller should join K.T. Harrell in a very good starting five and Shamsid-Deen and Granger will contribute as well but Pearl is going to either have to go smaller and faster letting the power forward Bowers fill the inside by himself or rely on Matthew Atewe. Atewe seems to have a knack for shot blocking so maybe his defense will be an asset but he's the biggest question mark on our starting five. I look for Auburn to finish this nonconference slate 10-3 while they work out the kinks and chemistry. We could do significantly better than that if things break right.
With the start of SEC season, Auburn will finally solidify its inside presence when Trayvon Reed arrives. Look for Auburn to start strong in conference against Vanderbilt on Jan 6, then return to Nashville in March strong with first and second round byes for the SEC tournament. The schedule is our friend. According to some preseason magazines, Auburn is picked to be the 5th-6th best team in the league behind Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, and Ole Miss. The good news is, Auburn only has to play Kentucky and Florida once, both on the road. We get Arkansas and Ole Miss at home and again, only have to play them once. The teams we get to play twice, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, LSU, and A&M are solid, midpack SEC squads but teams we should have more talent than. With this favorable schedule, Auburn is a threat to finish 13-5 or better in conference and finish in the top 4. Auburn wins one in the SEC tournament and loses in the semifinals to finish the season 24-9 and earn a 7 seed in the NCAA tournament.