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This Week In Auburn Hoops: Must Win Baby

Now it’s all on the line

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Ok, sorry about the absence of an article last week. I was sick for a few days, and was in Paris for work for the other days. Did it cost Auburn those games? probably. I’ll own those losses. Auburn came in to the LSU game last night having gotten beaten three straight times and two of those were winnable. Going into the LSU game, Auburn basketball had developed a bit of a disturbing habit. The Tigers would jump up on a big lead, and then squander it in the second half with cold shooting and worse defense. It had become down-right predictable.

Last Game

Against LSU, the trend was bucked. Auburn had a half-time lead, again, but instead of squandering it, the orange Tigers just kept scoring and rebounding and getting stops. I wrote a few weeks ago that Auburn blows leads because it doesn’t do the things to keep leads: get defensive rebounds and get stops. In fact it was worse than you can imagine, from a statistical standpoint. Out of the 351 teams in division one Men’s college hoops, only 15 allow a higher percentage of offensive rebounds to their opponent. That is gross. Going into the LSU game, Auburn’s opponent got an offensive rebound 34% of the time. You want to lose basketball games? Let the other team get two or three shots on the basket each possession.

Against LSU, Auburn grabbed 26 defensive rebounds to LSU’s 10 offensive rebounds. Other than that, Auburn really didn’t play the way it usually does when it wins. When Auburn wins, it usually has more than 12 assists as a team, against LSU it only had 10. When Auburn wins, Jared Harper is usually an offensive factor, against LSU he was nonexistent. All that to say, it’s a good sign Auburn was able to find a way to win this game. You have to be able to blow the teams like LSU out if you are going to build a program.

Ronnie Johnson was amazing. Again. The past few games, even in the losses, Johnson has been the most reliable Tiger on the floor, Heron excluded. Mustapha Heron is now so automatically consistent it doesn’t even warrant writing about him anymore. He is a guarantee to get about 12 points and 7 rebounds every time he puts on sneakers. Johnson is now top on the team in terms of win shares (.8) and usage percentage (26.9) in conference play. We need to not overlook how important he is and what he represents. Bruce Pearl looked at the team he had last year and the recruits he had coming in, and decided Auburn still needed a steady handed veteran for conference games just like this. He was right. For all the talk of Pearl as a coach, let it never be said that he can’t evaluate talent and recruit based on need.

Next Games

We have entered the home stretch of Auburn’s season. Arkansas, at Georgia, and Mizzou are all next on the docket and Auburn needs to win each and every one of them to guarantee an NIT bid, and definitely to have a chance at a favorable seed in the SEC tournament. If Auburn can avoid Florida and Kentucky in the conference dance, it might have a chance at a one or two game run, which would allow it to better its resume for the postseason. All that to say,

Just win, baby.

Arkansas is one of the few teams in the conference who can score at the rate Auburn can. The Hogs are 83rd in pace this season at 71.8, while the Tigers are 11th in America at 76.0. Auburn is the 11th fastest team in the country, but will have to get stops if it wants to beat the hogs. Arkansas has an offensive rating of 112.8, good for second in the conference, meaning it averages 112.8 points for every 100 possessions. Only Kentucky is better than Arkansas by that metric in the SEC. Auburn has to be better on defense that it has been in almost every game this season. Or, Auburn needs to just drain a ton of threes again like it did against Alabama a few games ago. That is the great equalizer for the Tigers.

The other two games are substantially more winnable than that one. Auburn played horribly against the Dawgs the first time around, but are a better team now than they were then, to be honest. Mizzou is horrible.

C’mon Auburn

Gimme Numbers

Auburn is a really bad defensive team, but is third in the SEC in steals with 97 and second in blocks with 67. Really weird. Auburn is a bad defensive team because it allows so many second chance points, and because it creates so many possessions with its pace. Defensive numbers are out of whack for high pace teams like Kentucky and Auburn by nature of their offenses.

Is Purifoy OK?

It looks like he is. Finally. He attempted actual 2-point field goals in the LSU game, and even was aggressive on the glass. This is a good sign. If he is healthy against Arkansas, Auburn’s chances improve drastically.

Final Thoughts?

T.J. Dunans is this Auburn team in a microcosm. He plays like a train on fire. When he is on, it is great, and when he is off he looks out of control and helpless.

This Week in Gif Form

Don’t question it

War Eagle, Get buckets.