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Box Score Breakdowns - After Three Games, The Results Aren’t Pretty (But the Talent Is There)

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Auburn Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This season, I’m going to be generating advanced box scores for each Auburn basketball game. I’ll do my best to share them, along with my thoughts, the day after each basketball game, but I figured with the holiday and Iron Bowl last week I’d let a few things settle down before publishing them.

Last year, I published a glossary of terms as a quick cheat sheet. It can be found here. While I have updated some aspects of the box score, most terms should still apply. As always, reach out if you have any questions.


ADVANCED BOX SCORE - First Three Games

Auburn 96, St. Joe’s 91 (OT)

Auburn 67, Gonzaga 90

Auburn 55, UCF 63

We knew there were going to be growing pains.

After three straight years of competing for the SEC, Auburn came into 2020 with a decimated roster in terms of experience. No player currently on the team played in the Final Four run that was now nearly two years ago, and the roster itself only contains one upper-classman. The leading returning scorer, Devan Cambridge, averaged just 4.2 points per game last year, and scored in double digits just three times. The prized five-star point guard, Sharife Cooper, is being investigated by the NCAA, and can’t play.

Suffice to say, it wasn’t supposed to be pretty right away. And reader, it hasn’t been.

Rather than dive into each game individually, let’s take a holistic look at everything we’ve seen so far. In the Advanced Box Score Google sheet, there are tabs for both season performance and for each individual game.

FOUR FACTORS

  • eFG% (44.7%) - Auburn has struggled to shoot the ball so far this year, with a eFG% at a hair under 45%. Last year, where Auburn was simply a mediocre shooting squad (152nd in the nation), the Tigers still put together a 50% eFG%. While this is almost small sample size combined with a weird travel schedule, a scare with contact tracing, and three games outside of their own gym, this number has to improve drastically for Auburn to compete in SEC play.
  • FTA /FGA (0.44) - Surprisingly, Auburn has gotten to the line at the same rate as it did last season. While the team lost one of the best players in all of college basketball at getting to the line from last season (Austin Wiley, 0.90 FTA/FGA), players like Turbo Jones (0.76), JT Thor (0.81), and Stretch Akingbola (0.90) have filled his shoes nicely. That being said, these guys actually have to start making these shots, too. Right now, Auburn is shooting 61% from the charity stripe, good for 197th in the country.
  • TO% (23.5%) - This is another sign of a young team still trying to figure itself out, particularly one that lost its point guard right before the season. While Justin Powell, Jamal Johnson, and Allen Flanigan have done a decent job of hanging on to the ball, Turbo has struggled mightily, posting a 10% turnover rate (roughly 2 turnovers/game). For a point guard playing just 17 minutes, that’s simply too high. We’ve also seen freshmen big guys JT Thor and Dylan Cardwell combine for a whopping 6 turnovers/game, which has really stunted the offense’s chances to establish a rhythm. It will come in time, but these freshmen being pushed into major minutes this early in the year limits the offense’s ability to play clean, up-tempo basketball.
  • OReb% (34.2%) - Hey, something we can be happy about! This number has actually improved over last year’s 32.7%. Just like with the free throws, this team is missing its juggernaut in Austin Wiley (18.1%), but both Stretch (17.5%) and Cardwell (13.0%) have picked up the slack, along with strong contributions from JT Thor (7.6%) and Jaylin Williams (6.4%). If the Tigers can just start converting those second chances into points, it would go a long ways.

OTHER NOTES:

  • Auburn has been playing at a significantly higher pace of play this year as opposed to last year (81 possessions/game vs 73 last year). Some of that is having Gonzaga take up a 33% of your schedule, but in general it seems like the speed of the games has forced Auburn into some young mistakes.
  • Despite a rough showing against UCF, Allen Flanigan has graded out as the best player so far using Adjusted Game Score (14.5). As a reminder, Game Score and its Adjusted cousin are an attempt to weigh all of a player’s contributions, such as scoring efficiency, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, etc. While he struggled some against UCF, he’s still leading the team in points per game, three point shooting, and assists, is second in free throw shooting, and is tied for third in rebounds per game.
  • On the other end, JT Thor’s struggles has placed him at the bottom of the list in Adjusted Game Score (0.9). While he’s been physically impressive, particularly on defense where he is a shot-altering machine, he his being killed by the advanced stats for his low efficiency. Thor has posted the highest usage rate on the team, while simultaneously being turnover prone (turnovers on 18% of his touches) and foul prone (9.2 fouls/40 minutes), and also posting the third worst eFG% on the team, thanks to a 10% three point make rate.
  • Jaylin Williams may be the best player on this team right now, but he’s suffering the same fate as early sophomore year Chuma Okeke right now. His usage rate of 17% is sixth on the team, and is barely better than Chuma’s freshman rate. I expect that to go up, but for a team that is struggling offensively, there needs to be a more dedicated effort to get Williams the ball.