Well it is a good thing a win is a win- because that is about the only thing I can say after Tennessee’s 65-61 victory over Vanderbilt. The Vols are superior to the Commodores in nearly every aspect of basketball, yet we found a way to about blow a large lead in the waning minutes of the game all the while having a poor overall showing. In the end, though, we ended the season with a sweep of our in-state rival. Now it is time to look to our next opponent and a familiar couple of faces in Bruce and Steven Pearl; let’s take a look at the nation’s #13 team, the Auburn Tigers.
Auburn 2019-2020 Recap
- Record: 22-4 (9-4 SEC)
- SEC Standing: T-2nd (w/ Florida and LSU)
- Categorical Leaders:
- Points: Samir Doughty (16.0 ppg)
- Assists: J’Von McCormick (4.5 apg)
- Rebounds: Austin Wiley (9.4 rpg)
- Steals: Samir Doughty (1.1 spg)
- Blocks: Austin Wiley (1.6 bpg)
- Current NCAA Tournament Projection (Lunardi): 5th seed in West Region (trending down)
- Quick Commentary: The Tigers are having another good season, which will likely be the new norm so long as Bruce Pearl is at the helm. With the SEC being as crazy as it is right now, the Tigers are still near the top of the conference and are favored by many to win the SEC Tournament. While their four conference losses are in two sets of back-to-back away games (@ Alabama and Florida in January, and then @ Missouri and Georgia in February), they have still held home court very well going 6-0 in Auburn Arena. They have 4 players that average double-digit points and at times are down-right scary-good on offense.
How They Play on the Plains
Auburn is one of those teams that when I think about the Vols playing against them I get a little queasy. Maybe it’s the Battered-Vol Syndrome that is plaguing me after the 84-64 BEATDOWN we took in the SEC Championship last season. Maybe it is because we face Bruce Pearl when we play the Tigers (full disclaimer: I don’t miss Bruce Pearl. I am happy with Rick Barnes. Still weird seeing a man who loved UT so much put it to us as the coach of another SEC team.). It could be that the entire Auburn area honestly smells like… sewage and hot brakes. The end result is still the same no matter the reason; my stomach gets upset.
We are all familiar with a Bruce Pearl offense; fast and shoot-at-will (3rd in SEC in Field Goals attempted, 2nd in SEC 3pt attempted per game) and up-your-tail-all-game defense (allow 10th fewest points/game in conference). Samir Doughty is the offensive threat that Tennessee is going to have to key on. Averaging 16.0 points/game and shooting 40% FG, the VCU-transfer is the leader of this team. He, as well as Point Guard J’Von McCormick and Small Forward Isaac Okoro make up a backcourt that is the quickest and most aggressive in the SEC. They are also one of the most productive (combined- 41.3 ppg, 9.2 apg). Where the Tigers at times struggle is their three-point shooting. Their 26.9% 3pt shooting in conference play is rock-bottom in the SEC.
The other big problem for Tennessee is going to be Austin Wiley. The 6’11” 260 lb. center isn’t the most adept at offense, but he does provide Auburn with GREAT defense (5th in the SEC with 1.6 blocks/game) and eats the glass and gives helps the Tigers have every possible offense opportunity (2nd in the SEC with 9.4 rebounds/game). Tennessee is (as I have mentioned a million+ times) undersized down-low and will not have a shot to win this game without winning the game on the boards. John Fulkerson had a rough game against Vanderbilt, and it will be hard to have a good bounce-back against a defender of Wiley’s caliber.
There are two things going against Tennessee mightily on Saturday. One is that Auburn is frankly dominant in Auburn Arena and that venue has quickly gone from one of the most lack-luster atmospheres in the SEC to now one of the fiercest. Secondly, Tennessee will have to out-rebound the Tigers in order to win this game, in my opinion, and I just don’t see a team that struggles to box-out multiple times in a game have much success against the best rebounding team in the SEC (548 total rebounds).
While it may be a different story come March 7th, I believe this game may look a lot like (and perhaps a little worse than) our last meet-up with the Tigers. My final prediction is Auburn 84-Vols 68. Here is to hoping I am very, very wrong.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. While a win in this game would likely silence all of the Rick Barnes critics/haters and do a lot for morale for this Vols team, I just don’t see a scenario in which they get the job done. Maybe everyone on the Auburn team will get nauseated from the smell of the city pre-game and play worse. They would still probably beat us though.
For minute to minute news concerning all aspects of all Volunteer sports, be sure to check out MoreImportantIssues on Twitter (@More_Issues), as well as listening to the podcast on any of the various podcast platforms! Trust me, Landon and Caleb won’t let you down If you’re looking for quality Big Orange talk with a laid-back attitude. Baseball is in full swing (get it?) and it looks like it is going to be an exciting season on Rocky Top! Until we meet again, this is Dakota Robertson saying see ya later and Go Vols!
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