College basketball is in full swing, and the Auburn Tigers are off to a hot start. The Tigers are coming off of a season in which they earned the SEC regular season championship and made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years. Needless to say, expectations are at the highest they have been in years.
With all of the expectations surrounding the team, they are playing at a level that may be even higher than last year. So far this season, Auburn has played three games with all three being blowout wins for the Tigers.
Auburn Outscores Opponents 292-176
After a matchup against South Alabama, which the Tigers won 101-58, they welcomed the 25th ranked (at the time) Washington Huskies to The Jungle. The Huskies never stood a chance, as the Tigers took a quick 18-point halftime lead and continued to control the game for the entire second half. This win helped vault the Tigers into the top 10 in the country, making their first appearance at No. 9.
After the quality top 25 win, Auburn took on Mississippi College in what turned out to be a 51-point victory in favor of the Tigers. Against Mississippi, Auburn only shot 24% from three-point range, an uncharacteristically low clip that head coach Bruce Pearl is not used to seeing out of his team. Despite the inaccuracy from deep, the Tigers were able to earn most of their buckets inside and also had 32 total free throws at the line. This game may turn out to be a good learning experience for the team, showing them that points are still attainable even if they are struggling from three.
Auburn Players Excelling
Several Auburn players are already heating up into midseason form, the same way that the Tigers were able to dominate last year once they got to the conference schedule. Most notably, sophomore Chuma Okeke is making huge strides from last season, as he is average 14.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 2.0 BPG. The only Auburn player averaging more blocks is Anfernee McLemore, last year’s wild card player who got hurt just before the postseason, derailing the Tigers hopes for a deep tournament run. If Okeke and McLemore can continue their stellar defensive play and players like PG Jared Harper and guard Bryce Brown can find their range, the Tigers could be even better than last year.
Despite all of these contributors, the biggest addition to this year’s squad may be Austin Wiley. The center, who had to sit out last year due to an NCAA investigation, has not yet played to his potential, but he is still averaging 11.5 PPG and 4.0 APG. When he gets more comfortable in the offense and shakes off the rust, the Tigers could be a top-5 team in the country.
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