After a huge season last year Auburn might be looking at a big turnaround this season. 2019 featured a roster with senior leadership unlike this season. Bruce Pearl will have his hands full trying to pull another massive season off.
2019 Record: 25-6 (12-6), 2nd in SEC
Key Returners: None
Auburn was en route to a historic season last year before the tragic ending. The senior led Tigers ran off 15 wins in a row to start the season, going undefeated in the non conference and jumping as high as No.4 in the rankings. After dropping two in SEC play they ran off seven more wins to hit a 22-2 mark.
A rough ending to the season left them at 25-6 with all six losses coming in conference play. Isaac Okoro was a freshman phenom earning Second Team All-SEC honors as well as a spot on the All-Defense Team. Samir Doughty was voted to First Team All-SEC leading the Tigers with 16.7 points per game.
Big wins on the year included No.13 Kentucky and a thrilling overtime win over No.18 LSU. Auburn was 5-0 in overtime games using senior leadership to will their way to wins. What was sure to be a promising postseason was unfortunately cut short but Pearl has a young team ready to rebuild another tournament team.
It’s a brand new starting lineup from a year ago. Auburn comes in as the youngest team in the SEC. They have just one upper classmen who has meaningful minutes under his belt. The Tigers have to replace their top six players from last season who were the top six players in nearly all statistical categories.
Sharife Cooper will be where it starts. The highest ranked recruit in Auburn history will be the centerpiece for Bruce Pearl’s offense. All eyes will be on the McDonald’s All-American who averaged 30.6 points and 7.8 assists in his senior season. He’s been a workhorse in the weight room to get his body ready for the next level.
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A pair of returning freshmen will join him. Flanigan is the lone player who started any games last year and has the most returning minutes. He didn’t show too much offensive ability but plays strong defense particularly on the perimeter. Cambridge showed flashes of offensive greatness last year largely due to sharpshooting from the arch.
JT Thor has about as much buzz about him as Cooper. He has excellent size and length so prepare to see some highlight reels on the defensive end. His size is concerning listed at just 210lbs but it does add to his quickness which allows him to play a more versatile role if needed.
Depending on the type of lineup Pearl decides to go with we could see a lot of starts from incoming freshman Dylan Cardwell. Cardwell has the size and power that Thor lacks and can take a true center position. His frame is similar to that of Austin Wiley from last year.
Jamal Johnson and Jaylin Williams are two other players who had a little playing time last year. Johnson is a shooting guard that took almost entirely three-point shots last year clipping 38.6%. Jaylin Williams emerged late last year averaging about 13.5 minutes over the final six games. If he can put together more theatrics like he flashed last year he should see some considerable playing time.
OFF THE BACKBOARD TO HIMSELF! pic.twitter.com/eGDzVyNEIS
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) February 22, 2020
A mix of other guys will fight for some time off the bench. Tyrell Jones is a guard who didn’t see much time last year but was the former No.116 prospect from the 2019 class. He should be looking at competition from incoming shooting guard Justin Powell who ranked No.176 in his class.
New face Chris Moore is a small forward listed at 6’6″ 220lbs which puts him in perfect position to play right away at the college level. Babutunde Akingbola is another massive body who could provide relief at the 4 and 5. At 6’10”, 245lbs he can be utilized in bigger matchups down low.
It’s a very young team for Bruce Pearl this year. This means they’ll be relying on the development and immediate impact of a lot of young players with little or no experience at the college level. This mixed with the mass exodus of nearly all of last year’s production has us reluctant to expect too much from Auburn this year.
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