Blogle here. Following the massive success of @WarDamnKevin‘s 3 Good, 3 Bad series for football, I have invited WarDanEagle to do the same for basketball. It’s your call on who does it better. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
After three games of Southeastern Conference play, Auburn’s men’s basketball team is one of just two remaining teams that don’t have a conference loss. (The other is that school across the state, which plays Auburn January 24th).
Auburn has a blowout win over Arkansas, a pull-away-late win over Texas A&M and a blowout-that-got-a-little-closer-at-the-end win over LSU on its résumé, but the Tigers come out of the undefeated start with the sense that they could play even better.
After the 3-0 start, here are three things that the Tigers have done well and three that they’ll need to improve to continue winning in the SEC.
Let’s start with the good…
1. Avoided falling behind – In three games of SEC play, the largest deficit Auburn has faced has been six points. That came early in the game in the SEC opener against Arkansas, a game Auburn went on to win 83-51. Texas A&M’s largest lead was three and LSU’s was four. The Tigers, on the other hand, led by and won by double digits in each game.
2. Sharing the ball – Auburn has tallied 16, 18 and 20 assists per game in its three SEC games, which is right on its year-long average of 18 per game. The unselfish, exciting game of this Auburn team has been a hallmark of its season so far, and that has carried over into SEC play. Auburn is 10th nationally in assists per game and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio. That starts with phenom freshman guard Aden Holloway, who is 10th nationally with a 3.67 assist-to-turnover ratio. Holloway has been down a bit in SEC action, totaling just four in three games, but Tre Donaldson, who leads Auburn in assists on the year at 3.6 per game, has stepped up off the bench, averaging 4.3 in the three-game stretch.
3. Put together explosive stretches – In each of Auburn’s three SEC wins, the Tigers have gotten spurts of points in key stretches in the game. After halftime of the Arkansas game, Auburn turned a 7-point lead into an avalanche, pairing explosive offense with lockdown defense in a 46-21 half that helped the Tigers to a huge road win to start SEC play. In the Texas A&M game, an Aggie 14-4 run gave Texas A&M a second-half 2-point lead after Auburn led most of the way. Auburn outscored aTm 24-11 the rest of the way to grab an 11-point win. Against LSU, Auburn ended the first half on a 19-4 run and continued to pull away after halftime.
Nothing has been too bad, so here’s some things to improve on…
1. Protecting leads – With the explosive offensive stretches comes the other side of the coin: What happens when Auburn doesn’t have the offense going? Auburn built a big enough lead over LSU and closed strong enough that it didn’t matter, but the purple-and-gold Tigers managed a 21-4 stretch that cut Auburn’s one-time 28-point lead under 10. Auburn will want to continue to bury teams once it gets a lead, like in the Arkansas game.
2. Finding more consistent go-to scorer – And now the other side to the sharing the ball benefit. Sharing the ball and letting a different guy step up every night is a great brand of basketball, but you also need someone to go get a bucket when shots aren’t falling. Johni Broome has been the closest thing for Auburn, but even he went just 1-for-4 from the floor with 10 points against Texas A&M, the only “shots aren’t falling” game for Auburn so far. Jaylin Williams has done a nice job as a secondary scorer, as he has all season too. The emergence of Chad Baker-Mazara has been great, as he had his two best games of the season with 19 against LSU and 16 against Arkansas, but he scored just two against Texas A&M.
3. Protecting the offensive boards – Auburn had 11 offensive rebounds to Arkansas’ seven, but, in the next two SEC games, Texas A&M and LSU both easily out-rebounded Auburn. Texas A&M had plenty of their own missed shots to have a chance at rebounding, but still pulled down 19 offensive boards to Auburn’s eight. Texas A&M is no. 1 in the nation in offensive rebounds, so that stat is a little more forgivable, but a few more teams with more front-line size than Auburn loom on the SEC schedule.