Our good friends at College and Mag were kind enough to answer some questions about tomorrow's SEC opener in Auburn. You can find my brutally honest answers over there, but here's what Kim(runyogasurf) had to say about the game.
Allen Payne was 4 of 8 shooting in both games but made 9 of 13 free throws against FSU. Noel Johnson is slowly becoming that guy that can be depended on to nail a three when it is needed the most. The team is playing better as a whole in terms of rebounding, passing and getting open looks. The losses to DePaul, Rhode Island and Winthrop were just gut-wrenching, but I think it took losing like that -- in the final minutes of the game -- to get them playing the way they did against Illinois and FSU.
Not to sound like a complete killjoy, but I think this Auburn team is still trying to figure out what it does well. For every game in which something goes well -- three-point shooting, transition, etc. -- it seems to go awry in the next. Three-point shooting is better this year than it was last year, but I am not ready to say that is a strength. Yet.With the exception of the FSU game, Auburn doesn't always nail free throws. Out of thirteen games, Auburn has only made more than 80 percent of its free throws in one game, and even that game resulted in a loss. Maybe I am being hard, but if every shot had been perfect, there are three games that might have turned out differently -- Boston College, DePaul and Illinois. However, the greatest weakness of all is the lack of perimeter defense. Rhode Island made 13 of 26 and DePaul went 9 of 17 from behind the arc.
I cannot speak for the entire fanbase but for me, I struggled with this question a lot in the offseason. Sometimes, I think of Barbee as the guy that might be able to change the culture but still not be the guy that gets to set foot in the promised land. Prior to the season, I expected to see Auburn win two games in the SEC Tourney and make it to the NIT. Now that conference play is here, I have no idea what to expect anymore. I do think, however, if he can ink the recruiting class, next year might finally be the year that ends with a postseason. Go ahead and insert your "next year is the year" joke here. But in all seriousness, there are guys in place right now to transition into next year, even though losing Frankie will hurt.
Easy question, easy answer. The students LOVE Auburn basketball. If class is in session, the student section is packed and rowdy. The guys always, always play better in front of a noisy crowd, even if it's not their crowd (see Illinois). The students will heckle anyone -- from an opposing player to the ref that uses way too much hair gel.
Auburn Tigers, all the way. I think the game will be decided before the final buzzer, but the score will be closer than it should because, well, that is just how this season has been. 60-56.