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#21 Auburn at South Florida Game Preview and Open Thread

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Auburn heads to Tampa in their final tune-up before Atlantis

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Friday November 19th, 2021

Auburn Tigers at South Florida Bulls

Amalie Arena - Tampa, Florida

Time: 6PM

Network: ESPN+, Auburn Radio Network

I’m sure a lot of people were wondering when the Auburn Basketball schedule was released why in the world is Auburn playing a road game at South Florida? Well, this is actually a home and home series with the Bulls coming to Auburn next year and well....

It’s also a brilliant scheduling strategy by Bruce Pearl and his coaching staff because that’s right, this year’s SEC Tournament will be held in Tampa this year at Amalie Arena. Ironically enough, that’s where these two teams will play this evening as the Bulls will make the 15-20 minute commute downtown to host Auburn.

Tonight also means a little bit more for this writer as this will be the first Auburn basketball game I’ve attended since College Gameday and Kentucky came to Auburn back in February 2020, 657 days ago AND I happen to have college degrees from both Auburn and South Florida. So yeah.... this one means a little more to me.

Auburn comes in at 2-0 with wins at home over Morehead State and Louisiana-Monroe and this will be their final tune-up before their showdown next Wednesday against Connecticut in the first game of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas. South Florida comes in at 2-1 with wins over Bethune Cookman and North Carolina A&T but a loss to Georgia Southern.

Get to Know South Florida

Auburn certainly had some roster turnover last offseason but nothing like the Bulls had. South Florida has 10 newcomers to this year’s roster and only 3 upperclassmen. Like Auburn, they will likely play 10-11 guys as all 11 guys have averaged at least 10 minutes a game this season. Offensively though, they are still trying to figure things out. They have averaged 57.3 PPG in their first 3 contests and are shooting just 22.7% from 3 as a team so far this year.

South Florida is led in scoring by guard Caleb Murphy (#23) averaging 9.7 PPG. Murphy is the team’s leading returning scorer from last season and this year, he leads the team in minutes, FT attempts, assists and steals. Sophomore guard Jamir Chaplin (#24) is second on the team at 8.3 PPG.

The Bulls have a 7-footer at center who began his career at Texas Tech in Russel Tchewa (#54) that should be an interesting matchup for Walker Kessler in the paint. Tchewa is averaging 7.3 PPG and 7 RPG so far this season.

Rounding out the starting lineup for South Florida is guard Javon Greene (#1) a grad transfer from George Mason averaging 7 PPG and 6 RPG and forward Jake Boggs (#5) averaging 6.7 PPG and 5.3 RPG. Boggs is a transfer from UNC-Wilmington.

South Florida’s primary 3-point shooters so far this year have been Green and forward DJ Patrick (#3) who has come off the bench so far this season and has more than double the attempts of 3s than any other player on the roster.

Keys for Auburn

In the Tigers first road trip of the season, I’m hoping to see more consistency from this group. Auburn started off strong against Morehead State and there was a bit of a lull midway through the game with a strong finish. The Tigers trailed by 2 at halftime against Louisiana-Monroe before outscoring the Warhawks by 30 in the second half.

We got a taste of why so many people are high on Jabari Smith as he had his first career double-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 4 steals last Friday.

K.D. Johnson had a much more efficient game last time out scoring 18 points on just 7 shots, shooting 4-5 from 3. He’s done a really nice job so far of giving Auburn a boost in the second unit.

Chris Moore had his best game in an Auburn uniform last Friday night scoring a career high 16 points. A lot of has been talked about Moore’s development from Year 1 to Year 2 this offseason and it was great to see him have that breakout game that will hopefully carry forward as we move along this season.

Lastly, if you haven’t seen this yet, you really should as it just speaks volumes of how far the Auburn program has come in the last 8-10 years.

It’s been great to watch Auburn’s presence in the NBA grow the last couple of years with more players on their way to the next level from this year’s roster as well.

Prediction

To be honest, I could see Auburn starting slow in this game in their first road game of the year and the Bulls making things interesting early but Auburn’s defense should be able to overwhelm South Florida’s offense. If the Tigers can turn the Bulls over and convert those opportunities to points, then Auburn should be able to take care of business in this one. Auburn has the advantage talent-wise and this will hopefully be a nice tune-up before the level of competition moves up a notch or ten next week.

Auburn 77 South Florida 58