After a blow-out loss to Xavier this weekend, Auburn (5-3) heads to beautiful Honolulu, Hawaii, to face New Mexico (7-3) in the opening round of the 2015 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
One of the most questionable decisions from Saturday's game in Cincinnati was having Tahj Shamsid-Deen on the floor. Shimmy has not been close to 100% this season, and it's likely that surgery might be needed to repair further damage to his shoulder after injuring it again against Xavier. His presence will definitely be missed as Auburn works with an already-thin bench.
The good news is that Kareem Canty is still shooting well for the Tigers. He had 25 points on Saturday with 15 of those coming off three-pointers (his step-back three still seems impossible to defend, which is also good). However, it'll take more than just Canty's hot shooting to give New Mexico a run for its money. He'll need a full supporting cast, which should include a more cool-headed TJ Dunans (he scored 10 on Saturday, but struggled in a matchup with Xavier's Macura and dealt with foul trouble) and a more in-control Tyler Harris (fouled out way too early in the second half in the same game).
Auburn is capable of winning more than just one game this week, but to do so, it needs its starting five to play with better chemistry and more fire on defense. Given how good our starting five can be, it'll be up to Bruce Pearl to help stoke that flame. New Mexico, as Pearl pointed out in his press conference, is typically a March Madness team, and with a 7-3 record, the Lobos will be a good first-round matchup for the Tigers.
Sophomore guard Elijah Brown (19.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG), junior forward Tim Williams (16.8 PPG, 8.4 RPG), and sophomore guard Cullen Neal (14.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 5.8 APG) lead the scoring for New Mexico. The Lobos are averaging 79.4 points per game as a team, while the Tigers are averaging a solid 83.9 points per game—namely behind Kareem Canty averaging 20 points and 5.8 assists.
If Auburn wants to gain some serious momentum before conference play in the new year, it'll have to start in Honolulu. Fierce defense in the paint, composed play in transition, and staying out of foul trouble early should give the Tigers a good chance to earn its first win of the tournament today against New Mexico. After that, things get very interesting, but first things first...
War Damn Eagle.
How to Watch:
Auburn vs. New Mexico
When: 1:30 PM CT
Listen: Auburn IMG Network
Radio Affiliates: 100.5 FM (Birmingham), 94.3 FM (Auburn), 1230 AM (Huntsville), 106.5 FM (Mobile), 92.3 FM (Montgomery)