Game Preview

Georgia Enters The Jungle at Auburn, Can They Survive?

Georgia faces Auburn in the 2nd Rivalry Game of the Season at Auburn Arena.

Georgia takes on undefeated Auburn in a no longer nationally televised Saturday Night rivalry game that means more to Auburn than it does Georgia.  That may not seem right, but it is the case.  For Auburn, there must be no letdowns in the SEC on their path to a #1 seed.  A #1 seeding would ensure a much easier road to Atlanta in the NCAA Tournament barring a tough matchup with the winner of the #8 vs. #9 seed game.  For Georgia, this game is just another game because if the conference eats itself as expected, an at-large bid is going to be incredibly difficult to attain.  Georgia is playing to become better and eventually strong enough to win the SEC Tournament in Nashville.  Georgia would need a 13-5 record or better in conference play to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament due to the weakness of the SEC and the strength of other conferences.  A loss by Georgia will hurt and anger, but it will mean very little in March.  A win for Georgia (9-4, 0-1 in the SEC) would just signal that the SEC is going to badly eat itself over the next two months.

Inclement Weather and Tornadoes Change the Time and Network

Want to watch the game?  Don’t expect to watch it at 6 PM Eastern Time on ESPN, instead enjoy the game on ESPNews at Noon Eastern Time.  Dick Vitale, likely will not be there either.  You may watch the game with the audio on in that case.

“The weather forecasts call for strong winds and possible tornadoes, so the Auburn and Georgia basketball game will be moved from 5 p.m. to 11 a.m.

Auburn, Georgia, the SEC, officials at ESPN and local authorities came to the decision together. The earlier tip-off time will give the Georgia team the ability to get on the road before the bad weather arrives. Right now, forecasts say 3 p.m. is when the weather will intensify.”

Let’s Meet the Auburn Tigers

Bruce Pearl runs a Modified Flex Offense modeled from mentor Dr. Tom Davis.  This Modified Flex Offense comes out in half court possessions where there is no opportunity to make any sort of an offensive push up the floor.  Pearl’s transition offense keeps opponents on their toes because of the threat of the three point shot and the ability to get to the rim.

Defensively, Pearl tends to play man-to-man defense and he likes to press a lot with different looks.  Pressure is the name of the game when it comes to Pearl’s defensive philosophy.  Use the defense to spur the offense and create a feedback loop.  This is how Auburn gets out on runs so well.

Where Auburn as a team excels:

  • Shot blocking.  They have a 15.1% blocked shot rate, which is 17th in the country.
  • Free Throw Rate.  They have a Free Throw Rate of 43.3%, which is 6th in the country.
  • Offensive Rebounding.  They have an Offensive Rebounding rate of 36.7%, which is 9th in the country.
  • Shot Distribution.  They only take 13.1% of their shots in the mid-range.
  • Getting into the restricted arc.  They take 44.4% of their shots in the restricted arc, 19th in the country.
  • Preventing ball movement.  Opponents make 41% of shots off assists, 15th best in the country.

Where Auburn is weak as a team:

  • Auburn is a 31.8% three point shooting team, which is 221st in the country.
  • Auburn allows 42.8% of shots inside the restricted arc, which is 330th in the country.
  • Mid-range shooting is a problem on the few shots they do attempt, they are 30.4% in this zone.
  • Auburn is 66.5% Free Throw Shooting team, which is 272nd in the country.

How Auburn is not what you are accustomed to seeing in the past:

  • Last season, Auburn forced a 24.6% turnover rate (#2 in the country).  This season, 20.1% (133rd in the country).
  • Last season, Auburn would put teams to the line much more often than this season.  A 10.1% drop in Free Throw Rate.
  • Last season, Auburn had an atrocious 67.2% defensive rebounding rate.  This season, they are an average defensive rebounding team at 71.6%.
  • Auburn typically plays 9 deep.  Last season, they were a 10 deep team.

Stylistically, Auburn is still a fast-paced team that shoots a lot of three point shots.  However, the difference is that they are taking more shots in the restricted arc and they are missing more three point shots.  Three point shooting a team weakness rather than a strength.  This is a more frontcourt forward team for Bruce Pearl.  It’s a massive adjustment for the viewer to watch.

Key Players for the Auburn Tigers

Austin Wiley – Center

Austin Wiley is the most important player on this team when it comes to facing Georgia.  Wiley is a dominant post player who has size and skill in the paint.

68.3% of his shots are taken inside the restricted arc and he surprisingly only makes 71.4% of the shots.  However, that is still a very efficient figure even though it is a lower percentage than Anthony Edwards inside the restricted arc.

He is a dominant rebounder who finishes off possessions and he gets second chance opportunities.  He has 18 putback attempts on the season, 26.8% of his shots in the restricted arc are putback attempts.  When he goes for a second chance shot opportunity in the restricted arc, he is 86.7%.

Wiley is a top shot blocker much like James Banks of Georgia Tech and Nick Richards of Kentucky.

Anfernee McLemore – Power Forward/Center

McLemore is used to spell Wiley in the game.  McLemore and Wiley may be together in the game at some points, but McLemore generally spells Wiley.  They split the minutes in the fast paced style that Auburn likes to play.  McLemore is less of an offensive threat than Wiley, but he is just as tough defensively.

The key with McLemore is that he is not able to create his own shot or set up his own opportunity on the low block.  McLemore can stretch out a defense and hit a three point shot on a catch-and-shoot situation.  McLemore is not going to get second chance points off putbacks at the rim.

McLemore is a strong shot blocker and there is hardly any drop-off from Wiley to McLemore.  McLemore is more foul prone than Wiley, but both big men are foul prone.  However, it takes four fouls to get the important defensive cogs off the floor in the first half and another four fouls to get them both to play compromised defense.

Isaac Okoro – Swingman

Okoro is a strong dribble driver and cutter.  For his size and position, his ability to finish at the rim is extremely impressive.  75% is rather amazing.  He usually does not take shots in the mid-range and when he does, he misses them.  Okoro’s ability to shoot three point shots is rather terrible.  Georgia would want to see him shooting three points frequently.

Okoro can draw fouls and get to the Free Throw Line, but he is only a 67.2% Free Throw shooter.

Okoro is actually rather similar to a former Bruce Pearl player from Pearl’s time at Tennessee, Scotty Hopson.  Much like how Bryce Brown was Pearl’s Auburn version of Chris Lofton.  Okoro is much like Hopson.

Samir Doughty – Guard

Samir Doughty has taken a massive drop-off in his three point shooting compared to last season.  He is still disruptive defensively and he is rather consistent at the Free Throw Line as a 77% Free Throw shooter.  Doughty has done a better job at drawing fouls and getting himself to the Free Throw Line to make up for his shooting woes.  Doughty will attack the rim off the dribble and attempt three point shots off the dribble, which will make for an interesting situation when Austin Wiley or Anfernee McLemore set a ball screen for him either at the top of the key or on the wing.

J’Von McCormick – Point Guard

McCormick is at his best when he is a distributor.  He is very similar in mission as a player to Sahvir Wheeler.  McCormick is a poor shooter and he does not draw Free Throws.  Defensively, he is not considered a pest.  However, McCormick’s major asset is his ability to distribute with a 32.1% Assists rate.

The key to getting into a competitive game with Auburn and possibly knocking them off is to keep McCormick from being able to distribute.  Auburn’s four closest contests were against teams that were able to bottle up McCormick.  If McCormick cannot distribute, Austin Wiley and Anfernee McLemore are not able to get the ball in their hands.  It basically becomes Isaac Okoro and Samir Doughty trying to shoot and drive their way out of a basketball game.

What to Expect in this Weather Altered Game

A less enthusiastic crowd that is mindful of the weather, an 11 AM Central Time tip-off, less hype, less time with the media, and a different network make a huge difference.  Georgia lets ESPN distract them and they start playing to impress everyone.  In this game, those distractions are gone because most people are trying to get away from the area or seek lower ground.

Georgia’s weaknesses all play into vanity and a lack of toughness.  A more aggressive Georgia team shows up to attack the rim against an Auburn team that will allow them to attack.  Georgia likes the fast paced style of play and Auburn’s struggles from three point range play into Georgia’s strengths.  The key is to keep Austin Wiley at bay and prevent J’Von McCormick from making a difference.  Aggressive offense is Georgia’s best defense.

If this was the 6 PM Eastern Time ESPN hype fest, then Auburn wins in a rout.  However, this is buried, rushed, and haphazard.  What is with Georgia Basketball and tornadoes bringing fortune to the program?

Prediction:  Georgia 70  Auburn 67

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