Entering the 2019-20 college basketball season, Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers still had that ‘we made a run in the NCAA Tournament’ glow about them. Five games into their voyage, and it appears the glow surrounding is enough to run roughshod over Auburn’s non-conference docket.
In a slight switch of format, we’re going to focus on individual teams anymore in these morning after posts.
Nevertheless, it’s the Morning After College Basketball: Auburn Tigers edition.
Colgate Isn’t Good But Samir Doughty Is
Joseph Nardone (@JosephNardone): Defeating the might Colgate Raiders is, at best, just winning against the team in front of you. It’s not an impressive victory by any stretch of the imagination, but one can’t knock the Tigers for doing what they had to do on Monday evening.
Samir Doughty had yet another outstanding performance, scoring 20 points on just 13 attempts from the floor. On the season, the guard has been remarkable, averaging 18.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Furthermore, he’s shooting 55% from the floor and 44% from beyond the arc.
Five games is still small sample size theater; though it’s large enough to now assume Doughty’s development on the offensive end took a significant jump. Mind you, especially from distance, he’s already shown an ability to be efficient when tasked with scoring. It’s just that he’s now asked to do more stuff in volume… and he’s succeeding.
The question moving forward for the Auburn Tigers is relatively important. Is what Samir Doughty has been doing sustainable? If the answer is yes — or even just close to yes — the Tigers will continue to impress when the SEC schedule begins.
If no, it will be up to Bruce Pearl to figure out a few things.
Don’t Let The Schedule Fool You
Blake Lovell (@theblakelovell): My friend Joe has great hair, but I disagree with him a little when it comes to the quality of Auburn’s opponents thus far (his take below).
Colgate and South Alabama were both picked to win their respective conferences. Davidson was picked second in the Atlantic 10. Georgia Southern was picked third in the Sun Belt. Cal State Northridge was also picked third in the Big West (and the Tigers’ 46-point win in that one had a lot to do with reigning Big West player of the year Lamine Diane not playing).
Of course, what do preseason polls really mean? Joe and I have discussed that many times. They’re not always an accurate projection of how the season will unfold, and some of these teams are indeed struggling thus far.
But just because they’re struggling now doesn’t mean the wins won’t look good in March if some of these teams reach their potential in conference play.
With matchups against New Mexico, either Wisconsin or Richmond, Furman, Saint Louis, and NC State on tap over the next several weeks, Auburn will have a chance to add more solid wins to its resume.
5-0 Is Cool But…
Joe: Davidson is expected to be solid. After that, I’m not sure how (blindly) excited we should be over Auburn’s 5-0 start. Obviously, starting with the best record possible is objectively good; although it’s important to note it’s not as if the Tigers were victorious over a bunch of world-beaters.
Furthermore, while some of the teams Auburn walloped are projected to finish well in their conferences (or even win it), getting excited over defeating a “competitive in the Big West/Sun Belt” team would be similar to becoming glassy-eyed since you smooched your Teddy Ruxpin doll just because it was there.
With the 282nd ranked strength of schedule, Bruce Pearl and company didn’t need to schedule tough for the non-conference. After all, a forever brutal SEC docket awaits.
Nevertheless, while some people are getting insanely hot and bothered since Auburn is operating in the college basketball realm without a loss, it’s also OK to acknowledge the Tigers have yet to be tested by a for-sure NCAA Tournament team.
The Best Team In The SEC?
Blake: Kentucky and Florida are struggling early on, and while the expectation is that they’ll both be firmly in the SEC title race come February, they’re not there yet.
Tennessee is back in the top 25 after an impressive victory against Washington, once again proving that betting against Rick Barnes just isn’t a great idea. The Vols are getting production from their veteran backcourt of Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden, and players like Eves Pons and John Fulkerson have quickly embraced their expanded roles.
However, based purely on watching these teams play, you can certainly make the case that Auburn is the SEC’s best right now.
Doughty isn’t Jared Harper, but he’s doing a lot of the things that allowed him to emerge as one of the nation’s top playmakers. Issac Okoro has been so good that he doesn’t even look like a freshman. Danjel Purifoy is shooting the ball well from outside, which is exactly what the Tigers need from him. Austin Wiley is a double-double threat any time he steps on the court. And others are offering quality contributions as well.
It’s a long season, and again, a five-game stretch doesn’t paint the full picture of a team’s true worth. You’d rather be the league’s best team in March than in November.
But after the Final Four run a season ago and the hot start to the new campaign, Auburn might be both.
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