Our friends over at the Auburn SB Nation blog College and Magnolia (Twitter: @CollegeAndMag) were kind enough to answer some questions for us leading into Saturday’s game.
Thoughts from Tuco, CAM’s resident hoop head, on the Auburn/UAB Series:
First, let me say that Auburn-UAB basketball is one of my favorite Auburn sports rivalries. Last year’s game was great and I hope we play every year. There have been years in recent memory where UAB fielded the best basketball team in the state and shame on any in-state team that doesn’t want to play the Blazers. UAB is a big part of the basketball renaissance going on in Alabama.
1. Auburn’s adjusted tempo is the 10th fastest in the NCAA. Would you say this fast pace of play will be Auburn’s offensive style this season?
Auburn has to play fast. Almost all of our players are long and athletic. We don’t have big bruisers in the paint, but everybody can run. The team’s physique is more suited to fast play. Auburn has almost an entirely new team this year and there are chemistry issues on the floor to be solved, but this year’s team is fun to watch.
2. Bartow Arena is no Cameron Indoor, but, the near sell out crowd should be quite lively Saturday night. Do you think the atmosphere will have any effects on the younger Tigers?
I don’t know. This is the Tigers’ first real road test. Auburn’s players seem confident, but we won’t know until tipoff how they will react in front of a hostile crowd.
If any of them has issues, it might be our true freshman point guard, Jared Harper. He’s a tremendous talent but runs hot and cold offensively.
3. In the 7 point win over USC-Upstate Tuesday night their 7-footer came off the bench and scored 20 points and had 15 rebounds. Could Auburn depending on 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8 forwards in the interior be a potential reoccurring weakness?
Yes. Auburn thrives on athleticism and pressure. We like to get up and down the floor. We don’t have a dominant inside threat. Heck, Mustapha Heron leads the team in rebounding.
Horace Spencer and LaRon Smith are very good shot blockers and defenders, but aren’t dominating rebounders or scorers. Neither of them are classic Auburn widebodies.
Purifoy is a great scorer and a good rebounder, but he can only do so much on his own. True freshman Anfernee McLemore is an offensive threat, but is a work in progress.
If we wind up in a half court game against big, strong centers, we’re in trouble.
4. I’ve seen Kansas’ Josh Jackson twice in person and I’d argue Danjel Purifoy is right there with him in terms of potential and skill set. Is there a chance Purifoy may play just one season for the Tigers if his success continues?
Maybe, but I think we’ll keep Danjel for another season or two. Purifoy is probably more physically-ready for the league than Heron. He’s had a year in our weight program already. He shoots well both inside and out. He leads the team in assists. He shoots and passes off of drives. He wants to rebound. He’s exciting to watch.
At first, I wanted to compare Danjel to Chris Porter, but really, he’s more like 1980s Auburn great Chris Morris.
5. In your opinion, who is likely to be the “X-Factor” for Auburn in this game, as well as this season?
Depth is Auburn’s X factor this season. Auburn goes 10 deep this year. Our 10 aren’t Kentucky’s 10, but all of them can contribute on an SEC level. No one has averaged over 30 minutes per game. Purifoy is the only player averaging over 26 minutes per game. There have been a few teams that were able to hang with Auburn early that we wore down in the second half.