Auburn’s 2018 season is finished with a second round loss in the NCAA Tournament. It was the best season for the Tigers in nearly two decades, winning the SEC regular season title and drawing the first bid to the Big Dance in fifteen years.
And next season looks to be even better.
Finally, after months of waiting, the NCAA announced its ruling on the eligibility of Danjel Purifoy.
The NCAA has ruled Auburn forward Danjel Purifoy will be eligible after he serves a suspension of the first 30 percent of the 2018-19 season (approx. 9 games). Story to follow soon...#MGMAuburn— Matthew Stevens (@matthewcstevens) March 20, 2018
30%. If that was this season, Purifoy would’ve missed the first nine games of the year, which means he would’ve been out through the UAB game before Christmas. His first action would’ve come against Middle Tennessee, and he would’ve been fully available for conference play.
Please do not ask me to decipher the unbelievably varied rulings of the NCAA. Why Austin Wiley got a full season, Purifoy gets 30% of the next season in addition to this year, and countless other players around the country got little to no punishment at all is beyond me.
Also this week, we got word that both Austin Wiley and Mustapha Heron have entered their names into the NBA Draft. Now, this is a totally different process than in the NFL, where you submit your name and you can’t come back. With the NBA, you’re allowed to go and test your stock, see where you’re projected, and if you don’t like it then you can come back to school. No harm done.
If Wiley and Heron don’t get good enough news on the draft front, then they’d likely return to school. Here’s where they’re projected at the moment:
NBADRAFT.NET - Wiley 36th to Dallas, Heron not picked
CBS SPORTS - Neither picked in the first round
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED - Neither picked in the first round
You have to imagine that Wiley wouldn’t go unless he got a first round grade, and Heron not being listed anywhere really suggests that he’ll be back to school as well. Best case scenario, they both return to school and we get ourselves a fat and full roster. Let’s see one possible breakdown.
Auburn hoops next year = MASSIVE potential. No seniors, add Samir Doughty, Danjel Purifoy, maybe Austin Wiley, and reclassified frosh ‘Stretch’ Akingbola.— Justin Hokanson (@_JHokanson) March 19, 2018
That lineup is quite honestly insane. Consider what the starting five of Harper/Brown/Heron/Dunbar/McLemore did when they were all healthy. Now think about what they can do with a true center in the middle in Wiley. They could go small, they could go big. Imagine the possibilities of a lineup like Harper/Brown/Purifoy/McLemore/Wiley if they wanted to go really tall. That’s only one of the possible big lineups they could throw out! You can put Spencer in there too! And what about our leading rebounder from this year in Desean Murray?
The point is, Bruce Pearl is going to be able to untie his hands a good bit more this coming season than he was able to do this past year, especially when it got down to the stretch run.
Also, if you will, remember what happened when Pearl wanted to give the starters a breather early. He’d bring in Davion Mitchell and Malik Dunbar for a few minutes to give Harper and Brown an early blow. It was evident during the year that they went through some growing pains, adjusting to SEC basketball and making mistakes. Now picture them with a year of experience under their belts and a dropoff that’s reduced greatly when they come off the bench.
And we’re going to get to see a new face on the floor for the Tigers as well.
Samir Doughty will add another element to Auburn’s lineup in the fall, and in his only year at VCU, he averaged 9.0 ppg in about 23 minutes per contest. If he’s a starter, he’s a double-figure scorer easily. He shot over 40% from the floor at VCU, and should be able to equal that at Auburn. As a rangy guard at 6’4, he should be able to be a part of several different combinations on the floor for the Tigers.
Altogether, while this season was special and resulted in a conference championship, we should be expecting more in 2018-19. We’ll be one of the favorites for next year’s conference championship, especially if we get everyone back and nobody heads to the NBA Draft. It could be a special year, and looking forward to basketball season like this is a really fun feeling that I hope we get to hold onto for years to come.