Auburn just beat a good nonconference opponent badly. MTSU isn't a Xavier caliber opponent but they are a traditionally good mid-major squad and Auburn just beat them badly. The final was 64-48 but it didn't feel that close.
1) Auburn is more than KT and Cinmeon. Auburn is fortunate to have the SEC's leading scorer (KT Harrell) and rebounder (Cinmeon Bowers). In the first half, KT couldn't find his range. He was scoreless until just before the half. Cinmeon didn't have his best start either (under five points and boards). But rather than roll over and die, other Tigers stepped up. Antoine Mason showed that he's more than a slasher by sinking two early threes. Granger showed the athleticism we expected when he arrived on campus as a highly touted recruit. KC Ross-Miller had one of his better games. With about 7 to play KC fell down, kept the dribble alive, got back up, and drained a shot from 15' as the shot clock expired. Incredible play! As a result, Auburn went into the half up 11 despite KT and Cinmeon's slow start.
2) Trayvon Reed's impact can't be measured in the stat sheet. Trayvon only had four points, three boards, and a block. What doesn't show up on the stat sheet is how many shots he alters. Not only does he alter shots you see, he also causes opponents to rout the ball away from him. It's been a while since Auburn's had this sort of big defensive presence in the paint. Some of his impact can be measured on the stat sheet (and the richter scale). Give him another month and watch out!
3) This is a team y'all. When things went right, teammates congratulated each other. When things went wrong, the players accepted blame and encouraged each other. It doesn't matter who's taking the shots as long as they're open and wearing orange and blue. Mason in particular came from a place where he had to take a ton of shots but is now getting better and dishing it to open teammates after the defense collapses on him. Defense is playing harder and faster. Defenders are doing a good job providing help and creating turnovers. We had 24 turnovers tonight. They're starting to look more comfortable in Pearl's system.
Right now, I'd take Auburn's Big 3 against any 3 in the conference outside of Kentucky. Our remaining talent is good enough to play in the SEC and is deep. Barring a catastrophe, Auburn will enter conference play on a five game winning streak and 8-5--something unimaginable earlier this month when Auburn dropped three straight to Texas Tech, Coastal Carolina, and Clemson. At this point, I'd be shocked if Auburn didn't make the NIT. Frankly, it's a little hard not to start daydreaming about checking out of work early on a Thursday in March and plopping down in a sports bar but there's a lot of work to be done before I order appetizers.