2018 Auburn Tigers Basketball Predictions with Odds and Expert Picks
You have to give Auburn credit for one thing above all else last year - they overcame off-court distractions that would have crippled most teams. Bruce Pearl was already on shaky ground heading into his fourth season last year, and then he got dragged into the whole FBI corruption scandal. The net result was that a five-star commit backed out of his commitment, and two key players - Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy were ruled ineligible. Wiley is back this year, and Purifoy will be as well, but not until he sits out the first nine games of the season. That would have been enough to derail most teams, but injuries were also a big factor for the team. Yet somehow the Tigers, who didn't face major expectations heading into the season even at full strength, won 26 games. They ran out of gas late, losing three of their final five regular-season games, losing their SEC Tournament opener, then falling in the second round as a fourth seed in the NCAA Tournament. But they still won 10 or a dozen more games than I expected them to, and I sure wasn't alone in that. Now expectations are much higher, though, and it is a whole new reality. Can the Tigers deal with it?
Auburn Tigers Additions/Losses
The team had too much attrition through transfers this offseason. The biggest loss was Mustapha Heron, the first five-star recruit to ever play for Auburn. He started every game for two years, and was the team's leading scorer last year, but he departed for St. John's. Desean Murray, the fourth-leading scorer, has left for Western Kentucky after his junior year. And backup point guard Davion Mitchell headed to Baylor after just one year. That's too much for a team to lose.
They didn't add any recruits of note and head into the season with a likely rotation made up of just nine players that includes one sophomore, three seniors and five juniors. It's an odd way to build a team, though last year's scandal issues obviously forced them into this situation.
Auburn Tigers Outlook
This team plays very fast to catch teams off guard, and that is possible due to the play of point guard Jared Harper and shooting guard Bryce Brown. Both are back and are pretty easy to like. But then the questions start. Purifoy missed last year and will join the team late this year. He is a talented wing, but chemistry and rust are real concerns. Wiley is very talented - another former five-star - but he also has to shake off a season's worth of rust. And Anfernee McLemore really messed up his ankle in February, so both his form and his confidence are questions. That is three big questions on one starting roster - and two guys who won't be ready at the start of the season. And the bench isn't as good as the starting lineup, either. Add it all up, and there is a whole lot of risk here.
The team isn't going to sneak up on anyone this year, and they don't have a lot of high-level talent - it wouldn't be a surprise if no one on this roster went on to the NBA. They play a style of play that really makes teams uncomfortable, and if they are healthy they will be able to do that again. But it will be less of a surprise now, so teams will be more ready. I find it really hard to get excited here.
Auburn Tigers Schedule
The second game of the season is a potentially interesting one at home against Washington. That matchup went well for the Tigers on the football field this year, and the team will be hoping for the same here. They head to the Maui Invitational, where they face tough tests. They open against Xavier, likely play Duke next, and if they somehow won that one they would probably face Gonzaga in the final. The rest of the nonconference schedule is easier, with a trip to N.C. State the biggest test.
The SEC schedule could be tougher. While they do have to play Kentucky twice, which isn't likely to go well, they face LSU, Florida and Tennessee only once each, with the latter two coming to Auburn.
Auburn Tigers Futures Odds
Auburn is ranked 11th in the AP poll but has just the 16th lowest odds at Bovada to win the national title. At +4500 they are far behind the co-favorites Duke and Kentucky at +500.
Auburn Tigers Predictions
I just don't buy into this team - not at all. I don't respect the talent. I am nervous about the drama surrounding the team. And I question how stable Pearl is in his position. There just seems to be a lot of downside here, and this ranking feels comically high. I am a serious skeptic.
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