Today is a strange day in SEC Basketball. Once the early non-conference season is played out, typically it's all SEC games for the rest of the season. However, that's not the case today. The Tigers take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys as part of the Big XII / SEC Challenge.
The Cowboy's season has gone somewhat similar to Auburn's. They are 10-10 overall, and 9th in their conference. They have a huge victory at home against Kansas in a big upset, though. That was their first victory in conference play since the first game of their schedule when they defeated TCU. In their non-conference schedule, they travelled to Florida and gave the Florida Gators a good game, something Auburn couldn't do. That was at a "neutral site," but you can bet the environment was more of a home game for the Gators.
The Cowboys have three players averaging double-digit points per game. Auburn has four, but that's because TJ Dunans is still on the list without having played since his injury out in Hawaii. Auburn shoots better from beyond the arc, while OSU is a bit better inside. When it comes to free throws, though, the Cowboys are much better than the Tigers. OSU shoots close to 75% from the charity stripe.
OSU isn't very tall. They only have three players taller than 6'8, and two of those are just 6'9. Of course, Auburn isn't much taller, and they don't have anyone as tall as OSU's Anthony Allen at 7'0. He doesn't get that many minutes as a bench player, though. Hopefully Auburn is able to use that to get Tyler Harris, Cinmeon Bowers, and Horace Spencer under the boards and grab rebounds.
These teams are evenly matched in the statistics when it comes to blocks and rebounds per game. Auburn averages four more points per game at 75, but right now it's hard to tell how that compares given the differences in conference schedules.
Regardless of the opponent, every Auburn game right now seems to come down to the exact same formula: get Kareem Canty hot shooting the three, keep key players like Spencer and Harris from getting into foul trouble, play some semblance of defense under the boards, and get the home crowd rowdy and into the game. If all of that happens, then Auburn can defeat anyone in Auburn Arena even with the depleted roster.
OSU is not a team Auburn can afford to foul too much. The Cowboys are just too good from the line. One thing that hasn't been talked about for Auburn over the last two games is how much Kareem Canty's ankle may still be bothering him. It's not being talked about, so maybe it's a non-issue, but it could be a small part of his performance in the last two games. Or maybe he just feeds more off the home fans in the Arena. Regardless, we could use TJ Lang or Bryce Brown getting hot from three point land, too.
The home fans may be the difference in this game. OSU has not played well on the road. The OSU site Cowboys Ride For Free even points out they have put forth mostly lackluster effort on the road all season. They also called us the "Eagles" over there which... ok, maybe they do trolling things with opponents mascots in articles? I've never read their stuff, so I don't know. I just find it hard to imagine someone doesn't know we're the Tigers. Even "War Eagles" is something I'm used to seeing. Just "Eagles," though?
We know what Auburn needs to do in this game to win. We'll see if they do it and get a bit of a boost against a team that went to the tournament last season before jumping back into conference play against LSU this Tuesday. War Eagle!
How to Watch, Stream, Listen:
Time: 8pm Eastern / 7pm Central
TV: ESPN 2
Listen: Auburn IMG Network