Aubserver Mailbag 111: What can Auburn take from that rout of Missouri?
This week: Close-game "luck," brackets, Allen Flanigan, shooting adjustments, permanent SEC rivals, Bo Peep, pretzels and Mr. Pibb
SF Allen Flanigan (Steven Leonard/Auburn Athletics)
There’s really nothing quite like college basketball.
Don’t try to apply logic from other sports to it. The fact that there are more games played and a more bizarre postseason than football means that you can’t really view it with the same lens. (It breaks down so easily that there’s a perfect circle of transitive wins and losses that includes all 363 men’s Division I teams — and it was completed by the end of January.)
A team can look awesome in one game and do the complete opposite a game later. (Hello, Missouri’s offense against Tennessee… then Auburn.) But you can’t look at it like, say, baseball, where a single game doesn’t matter a ton in the grand scheme of things. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have things like day-by-day bracketology updates.
So what are we supposed to make of an Auburn team that had lost three straight games perking up and hammering that comparable Missouri team by 33 points this week? You can’t expect the Tigers to play like that all the time, but there has to be some lasting value in what we just saw.
That’s the focus of the first two questions in this week’s mailbag. There’s a lot of basketball in here, as we’re getting closer to the madness that is March. But we’ve also got room for a few football topics — both past and present — along with some other nonsense at the end.
As always, thank you all for supporting The Auburn Observer and making all times of year enjoyable for this newsletter-and-podcast combo. Let’s go.
Is there anything specific that Auburn can take from the performance vs. Mizzou into the rest of the season? Obviously, they can't be expected to shoot like that consistently, and they also probably won't be able to rebound as effectively as they did since every other team is going to be better at that than Mizzou is.
But is there something, potentially scheme-related or similar, that Auburn did in this game that could carry on into the rest of this season?
Besides the obvious “height matchup” or “hot shooting”: Please tell me why it *is* as easy as “well, just do that every game” and why it *isn’t* as easy “well, just do that every game.”
A lot of the offensive takeaways from Auburn’s blowout win over Missouri aren’t replicable in every game. Missouri’s defense is not very good, and it’s a real all-or-nothing unit that’s either turning you over or giving up easy buckets. You can’t expect pretty much anyone else to be that bad on the boards, too. Most teams you face will have a true center or at least someone to counter your big men.
To me, the big carryover is going to have to come on defense. Auburn is an offensively inconsistent team. You’re 26 games into the season. We all know this. But if you go back and look at the best wins Auburn has had this season, awesome defense has been present in all of them.
Case in point: When Auburn’s defensive rating is below 100, Auburn is 16-1. (Tennessee is the only loss.) When it’s above 100, the Tigers are 2-7. (Ole Miss and Georgia are the only wins.) Defense travels. It’s going to determine just how far this team goes, because the offense has usually been a mixed bag. Auburn can win rock fights and lean on its scoring to win. It can’t, however, win with subpar defense this season.
The fact that Auburn suffocated one of the nation’s best offenses in Missouri is very important. That shows that Auburn is capable of playing well on that end of the floor against anybody, which is going to show that it’s capable of hanging with anybody it faces the rest of the season and into the postseason. Think about the losses last week to Texas A&M and Alabama. In both of those losses, Auburn fell apart defensively down the stretch. That’s the real deciding factor.
It’s not as easy as snapping your fingers and saying “well, just do what you did against Missouri against everybody else.” On both ends of the floor, Auburn won’t have that same frontcourt advantage. But being able to slow down a five-out, fast-paced offense that had elements of teams that beat you this season (Alabama, Texas A&M, USC, Memphis, etc.) bodes well moving forward. If Auburn is really locked into the scouting report on defense and gives it that kind of effort for all 40 minutes, it’ll have a real chance to make noise down the stretch.
Offensively, the one thing that I can take away from the blowout is the fact that both K.D. Johnson and Zep Jasper sought out and hit their shots. Auburn hasn’t gotten much this season from its 2 guards, as they combined for 11.8 points per game. (Every other position on the team has that number beat, easily.) Johnson and Jasper combined for 21 points against Missouri. They should have more confidence moving forward, and they know that Auburn is a different offense when they’re clicking.
If Auburn can play that high level of defense and get more production out of its 2 guards like it did against Missouri, it’ll be a tough matchup for anybody late in the season. And playing your best ball at this time of year is what everybody wants.
I know you've previously compared this year's basketball team to the 2019-20 team. As far as roster construction goes, they definitely have a lot of similarities with lots of older guys who aren't necessarily future NBA guys.
The 2019-20 team ended up at 33 in Kenpom, and this year's team currently sits at 17 (which also is exactly the same Kenpom ranking the Final Four team had on Feb 16, 2019 after coming off of a 3 game losing streak...)
This doesn't match up with the general tenor of how Auburn fans are feeling right now relative to how we felt at the end of the 2019-20 season. We remember that team coming on strong, a 2 seed in the SEC tourney, and a chance at a high seed in the NCAA tourney.
I noticed that the 2019-20 team had a luck ranking of 7th and this year's team currently has a luck ranking of 278th. I remember a bunch of OT and close/clutch wins in 2019-20, and I feel like if this year's team could have pulled off some of these close games recently, Auburn fans would feel more confident moving towards the post-season.
Based on the data: that this year's team currently has a higher Kenpom ranking than 2019-20, the SEC is much stronger this year than 2019-20 (per Kenpom), and this year's luck ranking is near the bottom of D-1, shouldn't we actually have higher expectations for this year's team's postseason chances than 2019-20?