My memory of Auburn sports goes back over 30 years and never before have I seen a team that deserved more and better than they got than the 2013-14 Auburn basketball team. Tonight, the last game of the regular season epitomized the story of the year. Auburn hosted a larger, more athletic Georgia team that is likely going to be in the NCAA tournament. Despite Antoine Mason's absence, Auburn gave the Dawgs all they wanted and had a chance to take it to overtime on a last second shot by the great KT Harrell.
Of course, as always, the story came down to free throws. Georgia hit 91.5% of their free throws while Auburn hit 55.6% of theirs. Auburn got two free shots late in the game with the game tied at 60 and missed both. KT Harrell was 8-8 from the line. The remaining Tigers were 2-10. The sports fates despise men who snub their noses at charity.
So what did we learn?
1) We'll miss those Auburn seniors. KT Harrell carried the team on his back. He scored 24 of Auburn's 61. I don't know if he'll be named first team all-SEC as Bruce has suggested but he deserves it. He's a great player and great Auburn man. Whether it's on the court or off, he will be successful in life. Malcolm Canada has meant so much to this team. Such a joyful, humble young man. He was raised rough, literally in a crack house, was homeless, and found food in dumpsters but you never see him on the court when he isn't smiling. He will be missed. K.C. Ross-Miller. People wonder if Auburn would have been any worse this year if Barbee had been the coach. Then think about the impact our transfers including Ross-Miller have had. I don't think they would have been here if Barbee was still the coach. Antoine Mason. He was such an exciting player to watch. It's a shame so much of his season was lost to injury and family tragedy. His time on the Plains was short but he'll always be a part of the Auburn family.
2) The cupboard isn't bare. In addition to the members of the #11 national recruiting class coming in, Auburn has several current Tigers I expect big things from next year. Cinmeon Bowers. He's so talented. Some hard work in the offseason and maybe some depth to let him rest will do him wonders next year. TJ Lang. TJ is already a very talented defender and his offensive game is getting better. I look for him to become a Chris Denson caliber player next year. Jordon Granger. Jordon came in highly touted and shows flashes of brilliance. I want to see that become more consistent. He plays better outside than inside. I'd love to see Auburn bring in better inside players that would allow him to move out of the paint and play as a large 3. Trayvon Reed. Reed has all the tools to be a Mamadou Ndiaye type force in the paint. Another offseason in the weight room, film room, and training table will help him tremendously.
3) The foundation has been laid. This team is the basketball equivalent of the 1981 or 1999 football teams. The success on the court isn't what we wanted but it's obvious that things are improving at Auburn. Our attendance was up. The student section is relevant again. Recruits are coming in. I don't know if Auburn will be good next year or the year after but for the first time since the offseason going into Chris Porter's senior year there's reason for roundball hope on the Plains. This team didn't have the success they'd hoped for but they will always be a large part of any future success Auburn has in the Pearl era.
Auburn will enter the SEC tournament as a 13 seed and will (to my knowledge) face 12 seed Miss State Wednesday at 6 PM. State has fallen off badly of late from their shocking run of midseason competence. Auburn has a real chance to win their first SEC tournament game in several years. So tune in y'all, big things are happening on the Plains . . . just not as soon as we would like. War Eagle.