AUBURN, Ala. — Following one of the most successful starts in recent history and back-to-back conference losses, the Tigers will play one of their most important games against Ole Miss on Saturday night at Auburn Arena.
Bruce Pearl’s young squad has gained experience through a string of early season wins, but the Tigers have gotten only younger with the addition of freshman center Austin Wiley.
Still, the newcomers aren’t exactly unknowns anymore. Enough game film has become available for detailed scouting reports on Auburn — that, in combination with fundamental defensive breakdowns and self-inflicted mistakes have led to a possible turning point.
“Clearly at a crossroads early in the season as far as what the future is going to hold,” Pearl said. “Is this going to be a postseason team? Is this going to be a team that gets better throughout the season or is it going to show its youth?”
The Tigers’ attempts to turn things around won’t be easy, however.
The Rebels are just one rebound from leading the SEC in that category and use an assortment of defensive sets.
Auburn also will have to stop Ole Miss’ Deandre Burnett on the perimeter (19.1 ppg) and Sebastian Saiz down low (15.7 points, 12.2 rebounds per game).
“In the league there’s just, and we’ve talked about this before, there just aren’t enough bad teams in this league,” Pearl said. “There aren’t. We’re no longer a bad team. We used to be. We’re not. But we don’t play against many bad teams in the league, and I think you could see that in the first two games, and you’ll see it again Saturday.”
The Tigers need a leader (or leaders) to emerge and have to figure out what area they can excel in.
Most importantly, Auburn needs a change and a win.
Auburn basketball Saturday night
Projected starting 5
* Blocks per game
About the game
Ole Miss (9-5, 0-2 SEC) vs. Auburn (10-4, 0-2)
Game time: 6 p.m. ET
Where: Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.
TV: SEC Network
How to watch online: SECNetwork.com
Follow live stats: GameTracker