Friday, January 20, 2017

Game Preview - at Auburn

Getting this preview up late. My apologies. Well, it's Alabama/Auburn, round 1. Alabama can expect a hostile environment when it rolls into Auburn Arena on Saturday for a 3 PM CT tip. The game will be televised on ESPN 2. Alabama enters this game with a 4-1 record in conference play, while Auburn has struggled to a 2-4 start, but are coming off a win on Wednesday night vs LSU. The win was Bruce Pearl's 500th win of his career. The rivalry in basketball is expected to take on more significance in the future as both programs are trying to build momentum. And, as always, the fans want each team to beat the other, no matter the sport.


68.6 PPG 78.8

62.2 OPP 75.9

42.6 FG% 42.5

40.2 OPP 41.8

48.7 EFG% 49.5

46.6 OPP 48.1

31.9 3PT% 34.7

35.1 OPP 32.2

62.8 FT% 68.6

67.8 OPP 69.1

39.1 FTRATE 42.6

35.9 OPP 35.9

39.1 RPG 37.3

32.7 OPP 40.7

33.7 OREB% 30

24.2 OPP 34.5

13.5 TOPG 13.4

15.2 OPP 16.2

19.7 TO% 17.6

22.2 OPP 21.4

64 KenPom Ranking 98

My Two Cents: Auburn could easily be 4-2 in league play, but struggles on defense bit them in home losses to Georgia and Ole Miss. This is a young team, but talented. They're probably still a year away from making a significant move up the standings, but certainly capable of giving a, at times, shaky Alabama team fits in front of what should be a sold-out crowd. The rebounding stat will likely play a huge part in who wins what should be a close game. Auburn has struggled on the glass, a strength for Alabama this season. And if it is a close game, Alabama needs to figure it out on the free throw line. They've been absolutely wretched, making just under 63% of their attempts.

Players to Watch: Riley Norris has been much more aggressive on offense in the last two games, averaging 16.5 ppg. This is good to see as Riley has gone through stretches this season in which he's been tentative on offense. He's received his fair share of abuse from the Auburn students the last two seasons so it would be nice to see him have another good day on offense.

Mustapha Heron was a highly-rated recruit coming out of high school. So far he has lived up the hype, leading the Tigers in scoring (15.7), 3-pt shooting (41%), and rebounding (6.2). Unfortunately, he also leads the team in turnovers (2.6 pg) so he can be loose with the ball. That said, he's a vital part of the team, and a threat to be a game-changer. Danjel Purifoy, the other star freshman for Auburn, has missed three games since injuring his ankle in the Ole Miss game. His status for the game is unknown, but the rumor is he's likely to give it a go.

Prediction: I'm not a fan of Bruce Pearl, but he was smart enough to know from the moment he was hired that beating Alabama is of the upmost importance to his fanbase. He will have his team ready to play. And for all of the debate that we've had here about fans showing up to Coleman, give credit where it's due to the Auburn fans and students; they have consistently turned up to games despite a 38-46 record so far in Pearl's tenure. They'll likely be out in force tomorrow, creating what should be the most hostile crowd Alabama has had to deal with. Alabama has improved since November/December, but this is still a team with issues to address, and this upcoming stretch of games is likely to expose them even more. Auburn - 81 - Alabama - 70   

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