We've had some great previews this week, but it's time to get things started. The late news on today's matchup is that G Chris Denson, Auburn's 2nd leading scorer, and G Jordan Price, Auburn's best 3 point man, are both out with injuries. Neither were mentioned in our interview with College and Magnolia, but both were sidelined in last Wednesday's game.
Despite the injuries, Auburn has been playing some of their best basketball of the season recently. Last week, they dropped a tight game on the road against #12 Illinois 81-79 and followed up that performance with a victory over Florida State at home. This has led to some positive buzz for the Tigers despite their 6-7 record for the season.
The team was carried by senior guard Frankie Sullivan in both games, and he leads the team in scoring and assists for the season, although he is not the most efficient scorer, hitting only 40 percent of his field goals and 29 percent of his three pointers on the season.
In the front court, Auburn features another senior, 6'10" Rob Chubb, who should be a formidable opponent for Johnny O'Bryant. Chubb leads the team in rebounding, pulling down more than seven a game.
One unique aspect of Tony Barbee's team this year is the number of experienced players playing significant minutes for Auburn, some of whom even predate their coach. In addition to Chubb and Sullivan, Auburn's main rotation includes junior Allen Payne, senior Clemson transfer (and former LSU target) Noel Johnson, senior Josh Wallace, and JUCO transfer Asauhn Dixon-Tatum.
However, Auburn also has some young talent, and if you have a few minutes to spare, you also might want to check out high-flying freshman Shaquille Johnson's high school highlights courtesy of Hoop Mixtape.
After close losses to Rhode Island and DePaul in late November, Auburn has gone undefeated at Auburn Arena, but 9-2 LSU will be their biggest challenge at home yet. This is a pivotal year for third-year Auburn coach Tony Barbee, who came to the school after working for John Calipari at Memphis and a four-year stint at UTEP, that culminated in an NCAA berth. He has yet to maintain a winning record at Auburn and has only won nine SEC games thus far in his career.
Can Johnny Jones start SEC play with a win? The game is on Cox Sports or Comcast Sports South, depending your your cable system. Outside the south, the game will be on the ESPN3.com service