SEC Tipoff Blog: Auburn relying on depth and experience

SEC Tipoff Blog: Auburn relying on depth and experience

5 hours ago
Kevin Scarbinsky, SEC

Photo: SEC

Welcome to the SEC Basketball Media Days Blog, your online home for the big news, behind-the-scenes notes and quotes and special moments that make this annual event, held this year in Birmingham, Ala., the unofficial start of college basketball season. Check back for updates each day throughout the week.

Older and deeper Auburn hopes to return from good to great

The way Bruce Pearl tells it, a week ago he told his Auburn basketball players that he would let them know the initial starting lineup this week. This week arrived, and what happened?

“Nobody’s asked,” Pearl said. “We’ve got so much parity and so much competition, I’m not sure they want to know.”

Junior postman Johni Broome confirmed the coach’s account.

“No one really cares about that,” Broome said. “This team is so together.”

All together, the Tigers go 10 players deep, Pearl said, and “when I go to the bench, we’re not dropping off.”

That’s saying something because the core of this roster has lifted the program to significant heights, like the 2022 SEC regular-season title and a No. 1 national ranking that season. Among SEC programs over the last six years, Auburn ranks behind only Tennessee with 143 total wins and a .715 winning percentage.

The next Auburn victory will make fifth-year graduate student Jaylin Williams the winningest player in program history.

Pearl enters his 10th season on the Plains tied with Sonny Smith for third in coaching victories with 173, and he’s 14 wins away from passing Cliff Ellis for second place. How far has Auburn basketball come in the last decade? Last year’s second-round NCAA Tournament loss to No. 1 seed Houston in Birmingham, after building a 10-point lead against the Cougars, reduced what could have been a great year to “a good year” in Pearl’s eyes.

Can this team make the leap back to great? The frontcourt featuring Williams and Broome gives it a chance. Broome led the Tigers in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots last season after transferring from Morehead State, which earned him second-team All-SEC honors. He’s a first-team All-SEC preseason selection. Williams was the team’s No. 3 scorer and rebounder and finished second in made 3-pointers.

If Alabama-Huntsville transfer forward Chaney Johnson becomes, as Pearl predicted, “one of the best players in the SEC,” and the young point guards in sophomore Tre Donaldson and five-star freshman Aden Holloway step up, Auburn will be a serious threat to outperform its preseason pick to finish sixth in the conference.

Broome said he can’t wait for the season opener against Baylor, even if this made-for-ESPN Nov. 7 matchup will take place in South Dakota.

“I’m itching to play somebody else,” he said. “It gets heated at times at practice. That comes from having a chip on your shoulder.”

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