Will McLaughlin returns with a super-detailed dive into the depths of non-conference basketball. Auburn’s got some good tests and some mid-major powers on the slate, and he’s letting you know about every single one of them!
As Auburn Basketball draws closer, I thought it would be a good idea to examine the non-conference portion of Auburn’s schedule. The non-conference portion of the schedule is always a good chance to gain some significant wins that may come in handy when it comes to March. In addition, it allows coaches to further evaluate their players to try and put them in the best scenarios when it comes to conference play. Auburn has several mid-major teams coming to Auburn Arena this season, in addition to a few true road games against Dayton and Murray State, as well as the Charleston Classic the weekend before Thanksgiving. This article is designed to breakdown the opponents the Tigers will face in November and December.
Friday, November 10: Norfolk State Spartans – 7PM
Last Year: 17-17 (12-4), 2nd Place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC)
Postseason: Lost in the MEAC Title Game and 1st Round of CIT
An appetizer to the Auburn-Georgia football game the following day, the Tigers will welcome the Spartans from the MEAC to start the season. This will the first ever meeting between Auburn and Norfolk State. Norfolk State almost beat Mississippi State last season, so this is not a guaranteed victory for the Tigers.
The next 3 games will take in the Charleston, Classic November 16, 17 and 19 in Charleston, South Carolina. On paper, Auburn comes into the tournament with the most talent. The other teams in the field are Clemson, Dayton, Hofstra, Indiana State, Ohio, Old Dominion and Temple.
Thursday, November 16: Indiana State Sycamores – 10:30AM
Last Year: 11-20 (5-13), 9th Place in the Missouri Valley Conference
Postseason: Lost in 1st Round of MVC Tournament
The Sycamores return leading scorer Brenton Scott (15.9 PPG) from a team that had a disappointing season. The alumni of Larry Bird did score an upset of Butler early in the season but that was the clear high mark of the season for Indiana State. This will be the first ever meeting between the Tigers and Sycamores.
Last Year: Temple 16-16 (5-11), 8th Place in the American Athletic Conference
Postseason: Lost in 1st Round of AAC Tournament
Last Year: Old Dominion 19-12 (12-6), 3rd Place in Conference USA
Postseason: Lost in Quarterfinals of Conference USA Tournament
Depending on how the Indiana State game plays out, the Tigers will play either Temple out of the American Athletic Conference or Old Dominion out of Conference USA.
Temple won last year’s NIT Season Tip-Off beating Florida State and West Virginia in consecutive days but struggled to a 16-16 record last season. This would be the 5th all-time between the schools and each team has won twice all-time, last playing in 2005.
Old Dominion had a decent year but were upset in their first conference tournament game by Marshall. Auburn is 2-0 all-time against the Monarchs and the teams have not played since 1993.
Last Year: Clemson – 17-16 (6-12), Lost in NIT 1st Round
Dayton – 24-8 (15-3), Lost in 1st Round of NCAA Tournament
Hofstra – 15-17 (7-11)
Ohio – 20-11 (11-7)
Depending on how the matchups go, Auburn will finish the tournament portion of the Charleston Classic against one of these four teams. The best matchup here for Auburn would likely be Clemson (I know, we play them enough in other sports), or Ohio, hopefully in the Championship game. Clemson finished 11th in an extremely tough ACC and were on the bubble going into the conference tournaments. Ohio would be a solid opponent for Auburn as they finished 2nd in the Mid-American Conference. Auburn would probably prefer not to play Dayton since the teams already have a game scheduled in Dayton on November 29. while Hofstra finished 8th in the Colonial Athletic Association last year.
Friday, November 24: Winthrop Eagles – 6PM
Last Year: 26-7 (15-3), Big South Regular Season and Tournament Champions
Postseason: Lost to Butler in 1st Round of NCAA Tournament
Auburn’s second home game will be the night before the Iron Bowl as Auburn will welcome Big South Champion Winthrop to town. This is a great barometer game for Auburn as Winthrop (picked to finish 2nd in the Big South) looks to contend in the Big South once again. It’s worth noting that Winthrop was Auburn’s 1st Round opponent in the 1999 NCAA Tournament. These teams last played in 2014 and Auburn holds a 4-1 advantage all-time against the Eagles. Winthrop has one of the top young coaches in basketball with Pat Kelsey who left very briefly to take the job at Massachusetts before changing his mind and returning to Winthrop.
Wednesday, November 29: @ Dayton Flyers – 6PM
Last Year: 24-8 (15-3), Atlantic 10 Regular Season Champions
Postseason: Lost to Wichita State in 1st Round of NCAA Tournament, 0-4 all-time against Dayton, last played in 2012 Charleston Classic
Auburn’s 1st road game will be at the UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio. As I previously mentioned, this may be the 2nd time the Tigers and the Flyers would play each other. This is a Non-Bracketed Game in the Charleston Classic and the Flyers are now coached by former Alabama Head Coach Anthony Grant. Previous coach Archie Miller left Dayton to take the job at Indiana. One of Dayton’s best all-time players Scoochie Smith has moved on and the Flyers are expected to take a step back this season (projected to finish 5th in the A-10). Auburn has never beaten Dayton, 0-4 all-time with the last matchup being in 2012, ironically at the Charleston Classic. This is a first year of a home & home series, so Dayton will come to Auburn next season. This will be a solid road test for Auburn and first time in a hostile environment this season.
Sunday, December 3: George Mason Patriots – 2PM
Last Year: 20-14 (9-9), 7th in Atlantic 10
Postseason: Lost in Quarterfinals of Atlantic 10 Tournament & Lost in CBI 1st Round
“By George!” Every time I think of George Mason, I remember Verne Lundquist’s call 12 years ago when the Patriots beat UConn to go to the Final Four. George Mason beat basketball powers Michigan State, North Carolina and UConn on their way to a stunning Final Four under now Miami Coach Jim Larranaga. As for how it relates to Auburn, this will be their 2nd Straight Atlantic 10 opponent. This is the 3rd Year for Dave Paulsen whose team improved from 11 wins in 15-16, to 20 wins in 16-17. Despite this, the Patriots are projected to finish 10th in the Atlantic 10 this season. This will be the first all-time meeting between the two schools.
Wednesday, December 6: Gardner-Webb Bulldogs – 7PM
Last Year: 19-14 (11-7), 4th in Big South
Postseason: Lost in OT to Winthrop in the semifinals of the Big South Tournament
Gardner-Webb is the 2nd Big South opponent scheduled to come to Auburn this season. Last year, Gardner-Webb beat Nebraska in Lincoln, so they proved they can win on a Power 5 school’s home court. Auburn’s only other all-time meeting with the Bulldogs was a 70-43 win in 2005. Gardner-Webb is picked to finish 5th in the Big South this season.
Saturday, December 9: UAB Blazers – 3:30PM
Last Year: 17-16 (9-9), 7th in Conference USA
Postseason: Lost in Quarterfinals of Conference USA Tournament
The last time UAB came to Auburn, the Tigers came away with a thrilling 75-74 victory on opening night. Horace Spencer, in his 1st collegiate game, blocked a potential game winning shot to seal the victory. It was one of the best atmospheres that I’ve witnessed Auburn play in because of a great turnout by UAB fans as well as Auburn fans that night. I don’t expect anything different as the Blazers come to Auburn in the 3rd year of a four-year home and home series. Auburn won 74-70 in Birmingham last year. UAB should be much better than last season as they return their top 2 scorers, William Lee & Chris Cokley. Lee back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year in Conference USA. UAB should be able to challenge Middle Tennessee this season for Conference USA supremacy.
Saturday, December 16: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders – 5PM (Game in Birmingham)
Last Year: 31-5 (17-1), Won Conference USA regular season and conference tournament
Postseason: Beat Minnesota in 1st Round, Lost to Butler in 2nd Round
Speaking of Middle Tennessee, that is Auburn’s next opponent after final exams in Birmingham. The Blue Raiders have made it to the Round of 32 in each of the last 2 seasons. Giddy Potts returns for his senior season for the Blue Raiders which makes them the favorite in Conference USA once again. Auburn is 3-1 all-time against Middle Tennessee with the only loss coming 2 years in Nashville, a game that Middle Tennessee won in Overtime. The game will be played as part of a doubleheader with UAB vs. Alabama A&M being the first game at Legacy Arena.
Tuesday, December 19: @ Murray State Racers – 7PM
Last Year: 16-17 (8-8)
Postseason: Lost in Semifinals of Ohio Valley Conference Tournament
Auburn makes its first ever trip to Murray, Kentucky on December 19. Murray State has been one of the better mid-majors in recent history, especially in Ohio Valley Conference. This game will be a big deal for Murray State as few Power 5 schools are willing to travel to mid-major schools and play them on their home floor. Auburn is 3-1 against the Racers all-time, their last meeting was in 2013. This will another true road game to help the Tigers to prepare for SEC play.
Saturday, December 23: Connecticut Huskies – 1:30PM
Last Year: 16-17 (9-9)
Postseason: Lost in Semifinals of American Conference Tournament
Three-time National Champion UConn will make its first ever trip to Auburn two days before Christmas. This will be one of the biggest non-conference basketball games in Auburn has ever hosted, especially in Auburn Arena. This will wrap up a home and home series between the two schools and Auburn won last year’s version 70-67 in Overtime in Hartford, a trip that saw Auburn beat Oklahoma and UConn in a 48-hour span. UConn struggled last year with injuries, but I fully expect the Huskies to be much better this season. They are predicted to finish 5th in the American Conference this season. UConn will be coming straight here from Arizona after playing the Wildcats two days prior, so it will be interesting to see how the Huskies respond here.
Saturday, December 30: Cornell Big Red – TBA
Last Year: 8-21 (4-10)
Auburn’s final game before SEC play comes against the Cornell Big Red. Cornell is picked to finish 6th in the Ivy League this season. This will be the first time the two schools have ever played each other. Cornell has struggled this decade after making a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 in 2010, failing to post a winning record in any season.
In conclusion, there’s some solid games for Auburn on this schedule with Middle Tennessee and Connecticut being the headliners. However, I feel like Auburn should be able to get through this non-conference schedule with only 2 or 3 losses at the most. To play in March, which is a well-established goal this season, the Tigers need to take care of business in non-conference play. We’re just about two weeks away from the start of the season. War Eagle!