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Best/Worst Case Scenario - Auburn Basketball Roster

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With the confirmed and potential changes, what’s in store for Bruce Pearl’s group next season?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn basketball’s gotten some unwelcome news over the past few days in the form of confirmed and possible departures from this season’s SEC Championship team.

We wrote a few weeks ago about the possibility of the roster going into next year, with the team two or three-deep at every position. Auburn would’ve had the possibility of fielding a classic lineup with a true center, going small, going big — pretty much any combination that you could imagine.

Now, after the news that Auburn has lost two starters and one backup from this year, things are more fluid. Desean Murray announced this week that he was leaving the program, and that means that the Tigers are a little thinner than they were to begin the week.

With Mustapha Heron already off to the draft (and hiring an agent, thus eliminating the possibility of returning), and Davion Mitchell transferring out of the program, not to mention the slew of players that have declared for the draft but haven’t hired an agent (Wiley, Brown, Harper), let’s take a look at what the best and worst case scenario for the roster is heading into the fall.

BEST CASE SCENARIO

Everyone that’s in question returns. Austin Wiley is told that he’ll need another year to play in the college game and work on his draft stock, and Jared Harper/Bryce Brown don’t get nearly good enough grades to leave school. That means we’d still have a lineup that would look this way:

CENTER - Austin Wiley

FORWARD - Anfernee McLemore/Horace Spencer

FORWARD - Danjel Purifoy/Chuma Okeke/Babatunde Akingbola*

GUARD - Bryce Brown/Malik Dunbar

GUARD - Jared Harper/Samir Doughty

Going two-deep at every position except for Center is a luxury that Auburn still has even with the loss of Heron, Murray, and Mitchell. The fact of the matter is that we’ve got guys that can play at multiple positions as well. McLemore and Spencer can each step in to the middle to give Wiley a blow, while Okeke can play in a couple of different roles (and should be fantastic next season). At the same time, Purifoy is versatile, and Doughty has the size to move up a weight class in the lineup as opposed to playing the point when Harper needs a breather.

Auburn can get really big with that lineup, and still put two larger dudes in Mclemore/Okeke that shot 39% from three. Coupled with Brown and Harper, Auburn would still be a huge threat from the perimeter, and would have more depth than they did this season.

Essentially, the losses of Heron and Murray aren’t bad when you factor in getting back Wiley and Purifoy. We’re still at the same number, only with more experience.

WORST CASE SCENARIO

This is where things could get messy, and would facilitate some scrambling from Bruce and the staff. In this doomsday apocalypse, we’d assume that Wiley feels comfortable enough to leave for the draft, while Harper and Brown also get a positive grade and peace out as well. That would mean that when we ended the season and thought we’d get everyone back, we now lost three starters from this past season, not including a guy that would’ve been a starter had he not sat out the whole year. Bad news.

Here’s the lineup above again, only with the departures crossed out.

CENTER - Austin Wiley

FORWARD - Anfernee McLemore/Horace Spencer

FORWARD - Danjel Purifoy/Chuma Okeke/Babatunde Akingbola*

GUARD - Bryce Brown/Malik Dunbar

GUARD - Jared Harper/Samir Doughty

Okay, we went from ten guys down to seven. Let’s shuffle a bit.

FORWARD - Anfernee McLemore

FORWARD - Horace Spencer/Babatunde Akingbola*

FORWARD - Danjel Purifoy/Chuma Okeke

GUARD - Malik Dunbar

GUARD - Samir Doughty

That’s where we’d stand without bringing anyone in. And now we’d need to check out the grad transfer market for a point guard, and hit the recruiting trail hard to finish things up. With Akingbola only possibly reclassifying to the 2018 class, he’s not even a definite to enter the program for this upcoming season.

All in all, I don’t expect Harper and Brown to jump to the next level, but Wiley was always the biggest possibility to leave. If he does, then we’ll lose the piece that could’ve made this team even better than they were. Hope for the best case scenario listed above. If that roster takes the court in November, look out.