Date: Wednesday, December 3rd
Time: 8:00 pm
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders
Bad Guys: Auburn Tigers
Location: United Supermarkets Arena | Lubbock, TX
TV/Stream: SEC Network / ESPN3
Radio/Stream: Broadcast Affiliates and TuneIn App
What to Make of Auburn. I'm not real sure what to make of an Auburn team that has wins against Milwaukee, Louisiana (not LSU) and Oregon State, but a blowout loss, and I mean by 31 points, to Colorado, and an 18 point loss to Tulsa where Auburn only scored 35 total points.
New for Auburn is the return of Bruce Pearl to the coaching ranks, after sitting out a handful of years for NCAA violations (I don't recall that he was forced to sit out, but there was a show-cause penalty for three years and which meant that any team that hired him would be bound by his restrictions.) and now he replaces the uneventful Tony Barbee. Pearl can coach. Or maybe it's better to say that he can recruit with the best of them. He's always done a terrific job of taking teams to the dance until he told people to lie about things, namely a cookout involving Aaron Craft of all things.
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl talked about playing Texas Tech and head coach Tubby Smith:
"Obviously, going up against Tubby is a great honor," Pearl said. "When you do match wits with a guy who has been there and done that as well as he has, there's an edge to it. I'm trying to do what Tubby did. Tubby took a couple of teams in the SEC - Georgia and Kentucky - to the tournament. That's what I'm trying to do here. Even though he's in the Big 12 and spent some time in Minnesota, the Big Ten, he still spent a great deal of his career in the SEC and made his mark on SEC basketball. Not that my career would even remotely approach his,but I'm cognizant of what he did at Georgia and Kentucky and that's what I want to do at Tennessee and Auburn."
Texas Tech, 14-18 in Smith's first season, is 4-1 to start his second season. Auburn is 3-2 in Pearl's first season.
"Tubby has a young team but a very talented team," Pearl said. "He has a young front line, but he's done a very good job with them. They've got a couple of really good scorers in the back court and they're tough covers, particularly one-on-one We shouldn't be overwhelmed by the environment based on our first five games. We've been on the road, and that's part of what we're trying to do. It's a great opportunity for our team and it's a great opportunity to represent the league."
Three Keys to the Game:
1. Scouting the Tigers. Auburn's best player, SG Antoine Mason (6-1/216), might not play as he is battling an ankle injury that's limited him to just one game. It's questionable if he does play, but in one game, Mason score 19 points and was really effective shooting the ball. Mason was the leading returning scorer from last year. After that, is SG KT Harrell (6-4/212) who is averaging 17 points a game on 44% from the floor. Harrell doesn't add much else to the boxscore, but 17 points a game is great. F Cinmeon Bowers (6-7/278) is averaging 15 points a game on 48% from the floor and averages over 8 boards a game. Auburn employs a ton of guards and they aren't that big inside, so it will be interesting to watch to see how Smith matches up with the Tigers.
2. Stats. Statistically, Texas Tech, 128th overall, is better than Auburn, 158th overall, according to KenPom. Auburn is better offensively, 136th in Adj.O. and not so great defensively, 181st in Adj.D. Meanwhile, Texas Tech is 148th in Adj.O. and 119th in Adj.D. Texas Tech is right there, or just a bit better than Auburn in the four factors and it is encouraging to be favored in the offensive rebound and free throw shooting rate.
Just to wrap up I don't know exactly how Texas Tech did it against Air Force. When I watched the game, it just seemed like Texas Tech was just never going to give up the fight. If you go and look at the numbers, the reasons why Texas Tech won that Air Force game is because of free throws and offensive rebounds. Just killed the Falcons in that respect. One more interesting note. Air Force's lead was nearly 20% safe with 2:40 left in the game:
3. Smith Plays Big. Zach Smith played huge minutes against Air Force and Tubby Smith employed a very small lineup, with Smith being the biggest player on the court for the Red Raiders. For whatever reason, Norense Odiase struggled to find anything early and he was quickly pulled as Tubby Smith needed to match-up with the smaller Air Force lineup. Smith didn't back down and he didn't score a ton, but his presence was huge and the fact that he was THE ANCHOR was significant. Smith finished with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks without turning the ball over. (And one other note, is Devaugntah Williams this teams' best player?)
If you haven't watched the highlights to the Air Force game, you'll be frustrated until the very end.
Tubby Smith's pregame presser.