Ball is Back!
Each week of the season, I will be posting a Wednesday “This Week in Auburn Hoops” article reviewing the past games of the week, and previewing the future games. Each article will also include sections about things I know, things I think, and things I want to see from the team. Hopefully, you guys enjoy it.
This week in Auburn Hoops is an exciting one. There is no game like the first game of the season in terms of excitement and hope. If the Tigers come out on Friday with an emphatic win, I will have a hard time not yelling “Tournament or bust!” from the balcony of my apartment. However, we need to remain calm, me especially, since the game will end around 5:30 AM here in Germany and I don’t want to wake my neighbors.
This year’s team is fast, talented and exciting. As I mentioned in my preview column which I hope you read, I think this is the year Auburn makes a significant upward turn as a program. I think the fans are ready to see some return on the investment in Bruce Pearl, and I think the season ticket sales department would agree. We are going to have a rocking arena and are ready to see his brand of basketball turn into W’s for the Tigers.
Auburn won its exhibition against Montevallo 96-68. This one looks like an impressive showing for the youngest members of the team, as freshmen led the way in Points, Rebounds, and Minutes played. Mustapha Heron, by all accounts, was as good as advertised, dropping 26 points in only 20 minutes of work. If he can keep anywhere near that level of production up, he will be one of the best players in the conference.
It is interesting to see how few assists Auburn had in this one. Ninety-six points on only 16 assists is a strange stat-line. Hopefully, that’s not indicative of a lack of ball movement going forward or selfish play. Auburn’s assist leader in that game was Horace Spencer, and that can’t become a trend going forward.
Friday night the season officially begins with a home game against the North Florida Ospreys. Auburn should handle the Ospreys with ease, but can’t come into the game overconfident. This team was a NIT invitee last season and won 22 games. Talent-wise the Tigers have a significant advantage, especially on the wings with dynamic freshman guards and forward Danjel Purifoy. North Florida returns a dangerous scorer named Dallas Moore, who averaged 19.8 points per contest last season and brings senior leadership to the Ospreys.
If Auburn can get a victory to open the season, it can perhaps look forward to a quick start going into the Cancun Challenge later this month.
Things I Know about this Auburn Team
I know they are young, which gives me some reason to be nervous going into a game against an experienced opponent. I also know they are the most talented team Pearl has had in his time in Auburn.
I know I’m excited to get this season underway.
Things I Think
I Think Pearl is going to show the press more in each game than the game prior as the season gets going. We know he wants to be a team that presses for long stretches of the game, but we also know he has a young team. I think he will try to get the Ospreys into easy turnover situations with a press early in this game, to build his team’s confidence in their defense.
I think Heron has a real chance to lead the division in scoring.
Things I want to see
Less of this nonsense.
The squad brought out the last night with these.#WarEagle pic.twitter.com/wYqX7Ww1Sx— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) November 5, 2016
Those are the UnderArmour Clutchfit Drive III’s. The only good thing about those in contrast to the sneakers UA has given the squad in previous seasons is they are actually Auburn’s colors. Last year the orange and blue on the shoes weren't even close. They are not, in any way, the “heat” or “fire” as the kids say. One of the most annoying parts of the UA deal with Auburn is the lack of heat given to the team. Last season, the Curry 2 was one of the hottest shoes on the market. Was Auburn wearing them during the season? Nope. What is the point of having a deal with a brand if that brand doesn’t give you its best stuff? If you look at any Nike school, you will see the team wearing new Kobes, KDs, and even some Lebrons. Why does Auburn get saddled with the sneakers you can get at Academy?
I want to see the Curry 3, one of the coolest new sneakers UnderArmour makes, on the feet of Auburn players. I want to see them in Auburn orange and blue. I don’t think it is too much to ask to see Mustapha Heron or Danjel Purifoy balling out in a pair of these.
I want to see Auburn increase its assist total from the exhibition, increase the number of possessions it defends with the press, and continue effectively rotating 10 players on the court. I think this team can be special.
Let’s get this season started. War Eagle and Get Buckets.