I am typing this in a library on campus at the University of Kentucky, the heart of Big Blue Nation. If the wrong person sees this headline around here they may want to throw hands. 

The Auburn Tigers stunned the SEC in the 2017-18 season by winning the regular season championship. This year will be no surprise when the boys from the plains make it back to back. With Bruce Pearl at the helm, and a majority of the squad from last year returning, as well as a couple of new key players being introduced into the team, the Tigers will be poised to show that last year was not a fluke.

Let’s take a look at all of my unbiased opinions as to why Auburn will finish atop the SEC heap come March for the second year in a row.

Roster and Depth

Right, I understand that you can say this about a lot of teams, but Auburn is bringing a bevy of guys who are all capable of taking over a game. The loss of Mustapha Heron hurts, but I understand that the man was making the best decision for him and his family in the long run. Also losing Desean Murray stings, as he provided valuable minutes that not a lot of other forwards in the conference could provide. But the return of the rest of the squad is CRUCIAL, as very easily four of these guys could’ve thrown their names into the NBA draft.

Jared Harper, the Junior out of Mableton, Georgia is back once again to run the point and lead the Auburn Tigers. The heart that this man brings to the court game in and game out is unmatched. He is a perfect representation of height not matching heart. He will pull up from anywhere and everywhere at all times and can easily drop 30 points if he finds his rhythm.

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Bryce Brown, the Senior sharp shooter out of Stone Mountain, Georgia has a fire and intensity for the game of basketball. Whether it’s against UK or a community college, Bryce will play passionate and leave it all out on the court. When Bryce Brown gets hot, it’s over. Don’t even bother trying to guard the guy, the ball is going into the hoop. Not to mention the guy is a lockdown defender, he will play for a professional basketball team next year.

Danjel Purifoy will finally be able to return to the court on the tenth game of the season in December. He was held out last year due to the investigation regarding former player and coach Chuck Person. Danjel has an NBA build and can do anything from running the point to bodying up as a big man down low. He’s got a sweet stroke (pause), something that is common among most of the players on this team, they can shoot. Danjel is keen for a highlight or two and will make a huge impact and likely fill the void left by the absence of Mustapha Heron.

Austin Wiley, the big man out of Hoover, Alabama returns for his Junior year and I have no problem in saying that there is a solid chance he wins the player of the year award. He looks like he should already be on an NBA team. The dude is so good at the game of basketball, plain and simple. He’s 6’11 and has a high on-court IQ, and he knows how to put the ballin the basket, what more do you want?

I could write a snippet about every guy on this roster but i’ll save the time. Everyone on this team brings something unique. Horace Spencer, Anfernee McLemore and Chuma Okeke will bing fire power down low while also hitting shots from the outside. Malik Dunbar will be the spark plug that every team needs coming off of their bench, providing coast to coast power and athleticism. J’Von McCormick and Samir Doughty are both transfers who will provide key minutes off of the bench. Even walk on Freshman Myles Parker will get a fair few minutes at the start of the year when the Tigers are without Purifoy. That’s 11 guys who all share the same goal. Which leads into my next point:

Unity

This is kind of a silly point to spend time on, I know. 14 out the 19 men that are on this team are returning players from last season. These men have built a brotherhood, they will fight tooth and nail for each other every step of the way.

Last year’s team was historic in the grand scheme of Auburn Basketball. Last year was the first time the Tigers made it to the big dance in 15 years. What Bruce Pearl has been able to build in a short amount of time is incredible. This team knows what winning is, they know what losing is, they’ve had years to experience both ends of the spectrum.

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I know that talent prevails, and that UK can have eight one and done’s a year and still reload the next year and make another run at the title, I get it. But this is a special group of guys, these are the men who changed the tide of the program, the start of a new era. Auburn is no longer just a football school.

In The End

Who knows what is going happen this season. In all honesty Auburn kinda picked a bad time to get good at Basketball, as this is the best we’ve seen the SEC in quite some time. Auburn is ranked 11th in the first poll of the year, yet still 3rd in the conference, behind UK and Tennessee. There aren’t a lot of gimme games in conference anymore either, everyone is going to have to work hard for every win that they can get this year. The SEC will come down to the last two weeks of the year, count on it.

Auburn will prevail in the end because of heart. They will just want it more than other teams. Personally, I think getting the regular season crown is a bigger accomplishment than winning a conference tournament. I know that that will turn a lot of heads me saying that. I can already hear UK fans saying “we don’t give it 100 percent all the time every regular season game” or “We go hard when it matters.” Auburn will go hard 24/7. Bruce won’t let there be an alternative. 

There are quite a few men on this team who will be sporting the orange and blue for the final time this go-round. They won’t accept anything but an improvement. Myself, as long as we make it back to the tourney I will be content, but I know deep down that this team can go far in March.

WAR DAMN EAGLE!

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Hunter Shelton

Journalism major at the University of Kentucky. Sharing my love of sports and writing with the world.

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