Stop hitting refresh on some recruiting page for a second. Close that youtube clip of grainy high school football footage for a bit. Definitely sign off of twitter if you are tweeting to high schoolers about coming to Auburn. Instead, let’s talk hoops.
Ok, Let’s take these past two games—one, a season-best win over TCU and the other a potentially devastating loss against Tennessee—and let’s talk about them as what they are. This past week is a microcosm of the entire season of Auburn basketball. When certain things are happening, this team is an offensive buzzsaw that no one wants to see. When those things don’t happen, it is not pretty. Much like the Malzahn offense, for those of you who need your basketball footballed, When it is running well it is the most deadly thing in the sport, but when it isn’t it is a hurry-up-three-and-out.
I have said a few times that Auburn has to do better at assisting shots. The ball is stagnant far too often during Auburn games and when the transition game isn’t working, it doesn’t seem like the team knows how to share the rock. Against TCU, the Tigers had 23 assists on 36 made field goals. That’s a really good ratio and is a great way to look at a box score and see if the offense was working.
Against Tennessee? Seven. The Auburn Tigers had seven assists on 25 made shots. That is pathetic. Going into the Tennessee game, Auburn was stone dead last in assists per game in the SEC, and that is still the case. When Auburn doesn’t move the ball, it loses.
Against TCU, Austin Wiley continued his assault on rims across America and showed more facets to his game. He is a nightmare to defend, evidenced by his free-throw rate of 1.0. That means he is getting to the line once for every field goal he takes. He is basically getting fouled every other time he touches the ball because no one knows how to defend him when he gets it in good position. In conference play, that number is actually a little over 1.0!
Against the Vols, Wiley was a turnover machine. He had more turnovers (7) than points (5). Wiley is not a particularly turnover-prone player. Going into the game against Tennessee, he was only averaging a turnover per 13% of his touches, which in not half bad for a big man. The Vols figured out a way to stop him.
Auburn is in must-win mode. It has nine games left, and needs to go better than .500 in those games if it wants to basically guarantee a post-season tournament invite. If it wants to be invited to the Big Tournament, it probably needs to win 7 of its remaining 9. Either way, the Iron Bowl of Hoops coming up on Saturday is a game Auburn needs. Auburn also should win the Mississippi State game if it wants to avoid finishing the season in the bottom of the conference. The Bulldogs have played a tough schedule, but the Tigers need that win.
The last time Auburn played Alabama, Austin Wiley was a machine. Hopefully he is able to build on that game and forget the Vols.
Things I know about this team
Auburn is the second best team in the conference at getting to the free throw line. It slows the game down and makes other teams defend you differently if you can consistently draw fouls. However, they are third in the conference in made free throws. When Auburn shoots a high percentage from the stripe, it usually comes in a win, since it is getting so many opportunities.
No player is playing better since conference play began than Ronnie Johnson. He is becoming a go-to player for Pearl late in games because he is so steady with the ball in big situations. He is an efficient player, leading the guards on Auburn’s team in PER in conference play at 21.0. Only Anfernee Mclemore and Austin Wiley are playing more efficient basketball than Johnson.
Things I think about this team
This team needs Danjel Purifoy back to his normal self. He played 30 minutes against Tennessee and made only two shots—both three pointers. He isn’t getting to the free throw line at all because he isn’t attacking the basket anymore. Obviously he is still hurt, but if Auburn wants to make any noise in these last nine games, it needs him to instantly heal.