Can Auburn basketball rediscover its identity in NCAA Tournament?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Can Auburn basketball rediscover its identity in NCAA Tournament?

Auburn begins preparation for the NCAA Tournament looking to rediscover the explosive offense and strong rebounding and defense that were staples of its success this season.

The Tigers (25-7) have lost four of their last six games and are coming off an 81-63 loss to Alabama in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The slide on the court as well as on paper has coincided with the loss of Anfernee McLemore, which has left Auburn with eight scholarship players, and led to more pressure on Bryce Brown, Jared Harper and Mustapha Heron.

"We clearly aren't as good without Anfernee," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "At the same time, I want them to think back to this is still a team that won the SEC. This is still a team that has eight players that are all capable of playing well. Look we had two or three guys play well against Alabama and nobody else. You can't win like that. We need the eight guys out there planning to step up and be able to play.

"From the standpoint of a reset button, if eight's going to be enough, eight guys got to bring it. We play best when everyone contributes and we need more contribution from more guys. It can't just be the star power guys."

Auburn is 22-4 when four or five players score in double-figures this season compared to 3-3 when three or fewer players score in double figures, which has occurred in all of its last three losses.

The last time Auburn won with such unbalanced scoring was at Georgia on Feb. 10, when Harper and Heron took command with Brown out of the lineup due to a shoulder injury.

"Guys got to go back to doing what they do," Pearl said. "Bryce has got to make shots. Jared Harper, when he plays well we win. That's a lot to put on your quarterback, but that's just the truth and those two guys are going to be going up against College of Charleston's two of their best players."

It's more than just offensive struggles that have ailed Auburn over the last few weeks. The Tigers are allowing more points and opponents are shooting better from the floor.

Certainly, several of Auburn's better opponents have also come during this span, compounding the issues.

"We're going to continue to work on our defense and rebounding," Harper said. "We know those are two things that we came into this year wanting to focus on that will help us win games, and in the SEC Tournament, we didn't really do that. So that's something that we're going to focus on."

If Auburn can rediscover its identity agaisnt the College of Charleston in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, it will advance to face the winner of No. 5 seed Clemson and No. 12 seed New Mexico State.

"We definitely miss Anfernee, but I feel like we can still have a run in this tournament and be a major factor and compete," Brown said. "We just can't look forward to any particular game. We've got to take one game at a time. Every team is going to be good.

"It's the 68 best teams in the country, so we're going to have to look at every team like they're just as good as every other team."

James Crepea is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @JamesCrepea.


from Auburn Sports Impact

No comments:

Post a Comment