Friday, February 26, 2016

Game Preview - Auburn

Round two with the Auburn Tigers takes place tomorrow at 4:00 PM in Coleman Coliseum. The game will be televised by the SEC Network. Forget the rivalry for a second. This game is bigger than the rivalry for Alabama. 16-11 overall, 7-8 in conference play, clinging to the bubble, Alabama needs a win to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Another "bad loss" (i.e., a loss to a team with an RPI ranking of 100 or worse) could sink Bama's at-large chances. Auburn's RPI is currently in the 130s so a second loss to the Tigers would certainly be considered a bad loss. Rivalry or not, Alabama needs to win this game. Auburn (11-16, 5-10) is headed for their second straight losing season with Bruce Pearl at the helm. The Tigers have dealt with injuries and their leading scorer leaving the team, but, to their credit, have shown some fight in the past two weeks, winning two of their last three games.



67.0 PPG 72.1
67.5 OPP 77.7
.426 FG% .400
.403 OPP .443
49.8 EFG% 47.7
45.8 OPP 50.3
.334 3PT% .348
.320 OPP .344
.653 FT% .636
.674 OPP .694
40.4 FTRATE 41.0
39.9 OPP 39.6
35.3 RPG 37.1
37.8 OPP 40.8
28.5 OREB% 28.2
33.5 OPP 31.5
13.8 TOPG 13.8
12.1 OPP 13.0
20.6 TO% 18.8
18.1 OPP 17.7

When Auburn's leading scorer Kareem Canty left the team in the midst of a 7-game losing streak, the perception was the wheels were going to come off for this team. The return of T.J. Dunans (Jr. 6'5, 174 lbs) from injury has helped Auburn avoid total disaster. Auburn has had struggles all season, but I felt the best player on their team was Dunans before he missed 15 games with a knee injury. Most importantly, he's been able to step in and take over the ball-handling duties, relieving Cinmeon Bowers of his short-lived stint as a point guard. Dunans worries me. He's a big, physical guy to guard on the perimeter. A little like Retin. Maybe not as polished as Retin has been this season, but Dunans has also only played in 12 games this season. His averages in those 12 games: 11.9 ppg, 36% from 3, 3.0 apg, 1.2 bpg, and 1.3 spg. He is a problem.

Tyler Harris (Sr. 6'10, 228) is also expected to return after he sustained a concussion in the Ole Miss game, missing a good chunk of the second half of that game as well as Auburn's home win over Georgia. With Canty gone, Harris is now the leading scorer for the Tigers (14.0 ppg) and is 2nd on the team in rebounds (7.5). Cinmeon Bowers (Sr. 6'7, 250 lbs) drew the ire of Alabama fans last season in Coleman with his showboating during a tense, tight game that went down to the wire. Unfortunately, his averages in the three games vs Alabama (16 ppg, 11 rpg) haven't exactly inspired him not to showboat. Bowers dominated Alabama in the earlier contest this season, grabbing 18 rebounds. If our guys allow a repeat performance, they and the Alabama fans in attendance can expect to see more flexing. Our guys will also have to be wary of Auburn's shooters, Bryce Brown (10.5 ppg, 37% from 3, knocked down 9 3-point shots at Arkansas) and TJ Lang (40% 3-pt shooter). You look at this Auburn roster, even with the injuries and the Canty defection, and you wonder why they haven't won more games. There is certainly talent, but it seems that the chemistry has been absent. The Tigers have looked better in recent games, and Alabama should expect the Tigers best shot tomorrow at 4 PM. The Auburn coaches, players and fans would love nothing more than a season sweep of Alabama and the final nail in their NCAA Tournament hopes.

What Alabama team will we see tomorrow? The tough, balanced, confident team that won their first five games in February to get into this bubble discussion, or will it be the team of the last two games that was inconsistent on defense, tentative on offense, and lacked the toughness and confidence that made us fall in love with them in the first place? As a fan, you can't ask more from Retin at this point so Alabama's destiny lies with the next group of guys (Shannon, Art, Riley, Justin, Mike, Jimmie) who have stepped up in some form or fashion when Alabama has been at their best. And it can't be one of those guys either; it needs to be all of them. They have to bring something to the table, be it points, assists, rebounds, making plays on defense, whatever. Avery mentioned in his press conference that the team has had some good practices this week, which hopefully will carry over into the game on Saturday. 

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