Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Jared Harper (Jr.)
SG: Bryce Brown (Sr.)
SG: Samir Doughty (RS Jr.)
PF: Chuma Okeke (So.)
C: Austin Wiley (RS So.)
Key Reserve Players:
Auburn comes off of their first SEC regular season championship since 1999. You have to go back to the 1998-1999 season to find an Auburn team that won at least 26 games. Just like the Vols, the Tigers look to build off of last year’s success in the SEC. Bruce Pearl is establishing quite the basketball program.
The Tigers lose their leading scorer in Mustapha Heron, but they get two key returnees in Jared Harper and Bryce Brown. Getting both guys back was huge. Harper was third in scoring last season and led the team with 5.4 assists per game. He only trailed Tremont Waters and Chris Chiozza in assists in the SEC. Harper is the guy that gets the ball rolling on offense. He is a playmaker, and despite his size, he knows how to get into the paint. Brown had his best year at Auburn last season, only trailing Heron in scoring. Brown really improved as a two-way player and has established himself as Auburn’s top perimeter threat.
Samir Doughty will be eligible to play and should fit in nicely with Harper and Brown. Doughty averaged 9.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists for VCU back in 2016-2017. He is a versatile guard, can play on and off ball, and is a guy who really likes to score, especially when driving to the basket.
Chuma Okeke had a very solid freshman season, averaging 7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. He even showed us his ability to be a stretch four guy. Okeke will have even more playing time with DeSean Murray no longer at Auburn.
Finally, we will get to see Austin Wiley play again. The former five star big man averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds back in 2016-2017. Wiley tested the NBA draft waters, but ultimately decided to come back to Auburn. He has the chance to have a monster season this year. He will be an absolute force on both ends of the court and will give the Tigers a very skilled/strong big to feed it to in the post. The seasoned, athletic veteran Horace Spencer will give Auburn depth in the frontcourt, along with McLemore. McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury last season against South Carolina, so he missed the last seven games of the season. The two combined for a crazy 4.0 blocks per game, with McLemore leading the way with a crazy 2.7 per contest. Danjel Purifoy will be eligible after the first 30% of the season. It will be interesting to see what role he plays when he returns. Will he play the three or the four? He averaged 11.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.4 steals back in 2016-2017.
Malik Dunbar will provide guard minutes off the bench behind Brown and Doughty. J’Von McCormick will relieve Jared Harper and play the role that Davion Mitchell played last season.
The SEC will be a three-headed monster with Kentucky, Tennessee, and Auburn. The Tigers will be fun to watch, and I am especially excited to see Austin Wiley back in action.