Just how scary is Auburn basketball going to be in 2018-19?
SEC Country wants to tackle the best questions from Auburn football and basketball fans. Look for our Auburn Question of the Day most weekdays. Go here to see all of our previous answers.
How good will Auburn basketball really be in 2018-19?
Adam A. — Facebook
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn basketball fans who enjoyed every second of last season should get their rest to prepare for what’s to come.
Earlier this week, the Tigers announced that point guard Jared Harper, center Austin Wiley and shooting guard Bryce Brown were withdrawing from the NBA draft and will return for another year on the Plains. This comes after the news of Memphis transfer Jamal Johnson joining the Tigers.
Yet the good news wasn’t without a slight downside. Auburn’s Mustapha Heron reportedly was set to withdraw from the draft, but he won’t rejoin with his teammates. Instead, he’ll transfer to be closer to home and his mother, who reportedly has been dealing with an illness. The mix of announcements begs the question: Just how good will the Tigers be next season?
Auburn fans, and really basketball fans in general, spent last summer hearing about how much Wiley had grown. He was, according to several sources, one of the most physically dominant players on the United States’ U-19 national team that took home the bronze medal at the FIBA World Cup. Now, all those diehards who piled into Auburn Arena will finally get their chance to see his improvement.
Wiley’s return is huge. He will be one of the most dominant bigs in the country next season, and he’s going to have some added motivation since he missed a year and watched Auburn have a monster season. Staying healthy will be key, but Wiley can handle the role that he’s going to have to fill.
As the Tigers earned a share of the regular-season title, debates raged about whether Brown or Harper was the most valuable player on the roster. In my mind, either one could have claimed the honor. What really matters is that they’re both returning.
That trio, along with Chuma Okeke and Danjel Purifoy, makes for quite the lineup. It’s a starting lineup that most college basketball coaches would clamor for. And that’s not even including a few very important role players.
Auburn will miss Heron. The Tigers will miss Desean Murray, who certainly would have benefited from the double and triple teams on Wiley. Still, Pearl is going to have a core group that knows each other, understands how to win and is fired up every time they take the floor.
Missing time, whether it be for injury or being ineligible, changes a player’s approach. Wiley, Purifoy and even VCU transfer Samir Doughty all will be valuable when things get tough for the Tigers.
So what should fans expect? Is hanging another championship banner realistic? Absolutely. Will Auburn make a deep run into the NCAA Tournament next March? If the Tigers stay healthy, history should be made.