It's Hoops Time in Tennessee: Auburn Preview 2/4/23

Text a buddy: Tennessee was a discombobulated mess in Gainesville Wednesday night.

Snap and clear, on to Auburn.

#25 Auburn Tigers (17-5, 7-2 SEC) vs. #2ish Vols (18-4, 7-2 SEC)

About half of the results from a Google image search of Bruce Pearl will be of coach shirtless, and about half of those will be in orange body paint. Also a not-insignificant number of pictures where Bruce has managed to sweat through his sports coat, if you remember those days. The relaxed dress code adopted by college coaches in recent years seems to have benefited Pearl more than most, while the insistent march of time has grayed the man since his days on Rocky Top.

It's hard not to look back on Pearl's time with Tennessee with a wistful "what might have been". Unlike another Tennessee coach from the same era, I find it hard to muster the same disdain I feel for Lane, knowing that Bruce's exit came from stupidity and/or hubris, not selfishness. Then again, it was Pearl's foolish decisions that pushed us into the arms of Cuonzo Martin and Donnie Tyndall and dangerously close once again to the days when 5-22 was not surprising...

You know what, screw this joker--DEACON BARNES 4 LIFE BAYBEEEE

Auburn’s Johni Broome is a 6’ 10”, 235 lb. forward/rebound machine that can also score. Broome was All-OVC twice at Moorhead St. before transferring to the Plains this year. He's not Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, but according to the advanced stats Broome pulls down a defensive rebound 1/4 of the time one is available and plucks about 1/5 of all rebounds in a game (Tshiebwe's rates are around 1/3 on defense and 1/4 overall). Broome has double-doubled in rebounds/points six times in SEC play (Tshiebwe's done it seven). He's dangerous and big and as excellent as Tennessee's defense is, "big" is not one of our strengths. This may need to be one of those games where Uros Plavsic shows up to go all Eastern-European mafia to limit what Broome can do.

Jaylin WIlliams and Wendell Green are two more of Auburn's threats. Williams gives the Tigers another option inside to go with Broome, while Green is a slasher and shooter from the outside that also gets to the free-throw line effectively. Fortunately, Zakai Zeigler and Santiago Vescovi lead the SEC in several advanced defensive stats, including win shares, plus/minus, and rating. Tennessee is also one of the nation's best at limiting opponents points per possession. Hopefully those factors show up and the Vols shut down Green and the Auburn offense the way we've become accustomed to Tennessee's defense doing.

Prediction: The Vols are 89.4% likely to win according to ESPN's analytics and a -9.5 favorite in Vegas. You know Bruce Pearl circles this game as soon as he gets the SEC schedule each year, and I'm sure the Tigers sense weakness following Tennessee's showing against Florida. But I'm equally sure the Vols are unhappy with the egg they laid in Gainesville and eager to redeem themselves against a top-25 opponent and SEC contender. Not sure they cover the 9.5 but I do believe ZZ and Santi have big showings and Olivier Nkamhoua, Uros, and whatever combination needed limit Broome and Auburn's inside game. Tennessee 71, Auburn 65


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