“Auburn’s still 17th in KenPom!” “We’re a top 25 team in NET!” “The refs suck!”
While all of these statements are true, if Auburn keeps losing, we’ll keep sliding in the bracket projections. The Tigers are still clearly a tournament team, and that is crazy to consider when looking at the state of Auburn basketball pre-2017. A strong finish with these last 7 games + SECT, and we won’t even worry about the last few weeks. But right now, Auburn is square in the middle of 7-10 seed range, meaning even if we can knock off a good team in the first round, you have a beast waiting for you on the weekend. So let’s take a look at those potential matchups. You might even see a few familiar faces there.
This is... BRACKETOLOGY.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi (2/14)
#9 Seed - Midwest Region vs. Baylor - Columbus, Ohio
Potential 2nd Round Opponent: #1 Virginia or #16 Norfolk State/St. Francis (PA)
WM: This matchup would be a chance to see old friend Davion Mitchell who transferred to the Bears after his freshman season. While Mitchell is ineligible to play, he would have a great insight as to how to play against Auburn. Between that and senior guard Makai Mason, this might be a tough matchup for Auburn. Scott Drew is one of the country’s more underrated coaches and he does more with less. If you get by that game, then you’re probably dealing with Virginia which to be honest, would be a matchup I’d like to see. It would be curious to see if Auburn could play fast or would Virginia’s suffocating defense be too much for Auburn to overcome.
RS: Like Auburn, Baylor has been a bit unlucky this season. They have a couple of close, crippling losses that are holding them back, despite blowing out a handful of teams both in and out of conference. They’re a short team, too, with only one guy over 6’7” playing a bunch of minutes. They’re the best shooting 3-point team and highest scoring team in Big 12 play, and they tend to get outrebounded quite a bit. They also can’t shoot free throws, for whatever reason. This game might be kind of like looking in the mirror at a less talented version of ourselves, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.
USA Today (2/15)
#9 Seed - East Region vs. Buffalo - Columbia, South Carolina
Potential 2nd Round Opponent: #1 Duke or #16 Norfolk State/St. Francis (PA)
WM: I made my thoughts pretty well known last week about how I feel about getting placed in Columbia and we also talked about matching up with Buffalo and potentially Duke again. The Bulls have dropped a pair of MAC games in the last few weeks and the reality is despite their gaudy record, they don’t have as much room for error going forward.
The Athletic (2/15)
#9 Seed - East Region vs. Baylor - Columbia, South Carolina
Potential 2nd Round Opponent: #1 Duke or #16 Norfolk State/Prairie View A&M
WM: We seem destined to play in Columbia or against Duke again and I don’t like it, one bit.
RS: We really have to get away from this 8-9 seed business...
CBS Sports (2/10)
#10 Seed - South Region vs. Buffalo - Des Moines, Iowa
Potential 2nd Round Opponent: #2 Michigan vs. #15 South Dakota State
WM: Buffalo again appears as an opponent for Auburn but it’s not in Columbia so I can live with this. But I want to talk about the Potential Round 2 matchup. That is a VERY VERY interesting 2/15 matchup. The Jackrabbits have the best duo in college basketball you’ve probably never heard of in Mike Daum and David Jenkins. Daum is averaging 25.2 points and 11.6 rebounds a contest while Jenkins is averaging 19.7 points a game while shooting 47.7% from 3-point range. Michigan struggles to score at times so this there’s potential here in my opinion for a classic March upset.
SB Nation (2/12)
#8 Seed - Midwest Region vs. Wofford - Columbus, Ohio
Potential 2nd Round Opponent: #1 Virginia or #16 St. Francis (PA)/Monmouth
WM: We talked a bit about Wofford last week but they’re one of 4 teams in the Southern Conference that are really good. They are 14-0 in the conference, followed closely by early season darling Furman, UNC Greensboro, and East Tennessee State. Looking ahead to conference tournaments in a few weeks, this is a conference to watch as is the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. But back to Wofford, they can put up a bunch of points so a matchup with the Terriers could be a fun one with a bunch of points.
Fox Sports (2/14) Ryan: New one is coming out this afternoon
#6 Seed - West Region vs. St. John’s
Potential 2nd Round Opponent: #3 Kansas or #14 Texas State
WM: St. John’s came up last week and we already talked about how a matchup against Mustapha Heron would be must-see TV for Auburn fans. Part of me would probably hate this game because we all know how much Heron meant to Auburn in the 2 years he played for the Tigers. Heron’s an integral part of why Auburn is where they are now because he believed in Auburn before so many other people did.
RS: As key as Mustapha has been for St. John’s, the guy I’m looking at is Shamorie Ponds. The junior point guard is averaging over 20 ppg, and with a PER over 28, he’s a bonafide superstar. Like Jared Harper, his size may keep him out of the NBA, but in college, he’s going to be the best player on the court in most of his games. As such, Ponds and Heron are a one-two punch I want no part of come March.