OK, now I know what you’re all thinking after Wednesday night’s 96-71 loss to Purdue out in Cancun: new year, same Auburn basketball.
I know the results weren’t very promising, but I’m telling you this year’s team is going to be different.
Purdue shot a torrid 76 percent from the floor and 75 percent (9-of-12) from 3 in the second half.
— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) November 24, 2016
In their first true test of the season with a championship (of sorts) on the line, the Tigers came up short — 25 points short to be exact. Yet, there’s clearly a swagger and confidence about this team that hasn’t been present in previous years.
The 2016-17 Tigers lack ideal size in the frontcourt, but make up for it with impressive 3-point shooting, elite athleticism and a young group of perimeter players that improve the more they play together.
Auburn did what they needed to do in Cancun. Got a good win over a top 50 team and then held with a top 20 team until that team couldnt miss
— Jacob Varner (@jacobvarner14) November 24, 2016
Overall, I think Auburn had a good showing in Cancun. However, while youth is this team’s biggest strength, it’ll also be its biggest weakness. Last night the inexperience showed against a seasoned, battle-tested Purdue team that knew how to weather the Tigers’ first half storm and close them out with solid play, suffocating defense and dead-eye shooting down the stretch — all traits of a nationally ranked team.
If anything, the loss is a learning experience for the young Tigers. It’s good for them to have a game like this in November rather than in the later months of February and March when the selection committee is watching.
Without a doubt, Auburn basketball will have its growing pains, but the group is extremely talented, they already know how to play hard (often one of the toughest concepts for a young team to grasp), and a coaching staff that will put them in a position to win night in and night out.
Yes, of course I’m biased when it comes to this team. But the progress this program has made under Bruce Pearl is undeniable. They’re on pace to do good things this year, and even better things for years to come.
This program is finally starting to emerge from the shadows of its SEC peers, and for that, the Auburn family is thankful.
CJ Holmes not only graduated from Auburn, he played basketball for the Tigers from 2012-15. He drops in here weekly to give his thoughts on Auburn athletics. Follow him on Twitter @ceejay22au