Dear Auburn Basketball,
I’ve thought about doing this for awhile now but I hadn’t put the words and thoughts together until now. But since it’s now Valentine’s Day, I felt the need to tell you how I and many Auburn fans feel right now.
Last season, you guys gave us one of the most memorable seasons in Auburn history. You were overlooked, disrespected, counted out, and yet time and time again, you fought through that adversity. You gave this university a basketball program that Auburn could believe in, get behind, and as a result, you guys did the unthinkable and won an SEC Championship. You made a university that’s been indifferent to basketball for years actually give a damn about Auburn Basketball and that in itself is quite an accomplishment. The season may not have ended the way we wanted it to, but I’ve never been more proud of a team in my life than I was that team last year.
So that leads me to this year. This year was supposed to be all about Unfinished Business. Expectations were extremely high. You were expected to be playing in the NCAA Tournament again, make a Sweet 16 perhaps or even make the program’s first ever Final Four. I genuinely thought that this team was going to be one of the best in Auburn history. So what in the world has happened?
You started the season off well blowing out your first 3 opponents, including Washington, a preseason Top 25 team and everyone told you how great you were. Then you went to Maui, pulled through against Xavier, played your tails off against Duke and put up a respectable result, and then knocked off Arizona. 3rd Place in the Maui Invitational was a solid result and things looked really good.
But things have looked and seemed different after that Maui trip.... this team hasn’t played together in several games. There’s been good moments (Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M). But there’s been several bad moments (N.C. State, Mississippi State, last night, just to name a few). You guys seem to fix one thing and then another thing goes splat. One night it’s bad 3 point shooting. One night it’s free throws. One night it’s not keeping guys healthy. Another night it’s rebounding. And then last night, it’s giving up 3-pointers at the end of shot clocks. At some point, you have to put it together, don't you?
Time and time again, I’ve defended you guys when you’ve come up short on the road thinking you’re gonna get it together at some point. I’ve tried really hard to be one of the more optimistic people every time you guys have dropped a game knowing there is plenty of time to get this right. Playing at home has been huge for you guys but after losing a 2nd game at home last night, even now I have a few doubts. The talent on this basketball team is some of the best it’s ever been at Auburn and yet you guys can’t seem to put it together all at once. Newsflash: time is starting to run out to put it together!
And now I speak directly to you, Chuma Okeke. You were awesome last night! You played your heart out, you put the team on the back and did everything you could to will your team to victory. Keep playing with that aggression. Keep playing with that fire and make this your team. Lead this team coming down the stretch and don’t be afraid to take games over!
People are doubting you again. Many people don’t think you should be or deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament and when they think of Auburn Basketball, they think of you as one of the country’s biggest disappointments. The fanbase is jumping off the bandwagon left and right. How do you respond to adversity? How do you prove those doubters wrong and shut up the critics around you? I can’t think of a better way than to prove the haters and critics wrong than to finally put it all together on the court. That starts Saturday.
I hope like heck that last night woke you guys up. If that didn’t then what will? It’s time to start playing together again. It’s time to put all the pieces together. You have 7 regular season games left plus the SEC Tournament. Everything I mentioned at the beginning is still in front of you. Get into the tournament and anything can happen. This team is way too talented to be going through the ups and downs they are right now. But in order to make the tournament, you have to start playing Auburn Basketball again.
In conclusion, I still love you guys and I’ll continue to show up several hours before tip to make sure I’m in the front row of the student section doing my best to cheer you guys on and get others fired up as well. I will continue to believe in you guys. The question is: do you believe in yourselves? Forget about Unfinished Business, it’s time to Put Up or Shut Up!
See you Saturday in Nashville!
War Damn Eagle, Always!!!
Will McLaughlin - The Crazy Student Jumping Up and Down Across from your Bench