WOODY BARRETT (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning Quarterback Column: Spring Thoughts, Bracket Talk, Auburn On The Diamond

Looking at Auburn's new-look passing game, NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket talk plus Auburn baseball and softball.

Spring Break

The football team is off this week for spring break and it’s a good time to look back at the first third of spring for the Auburn Tigers on the practice field. Probably the biggest takeaway for me is how much the offense has already transformed under new coordinator Chip Lindsey.

It’s hard to tell just how much more passing there will be when the Tigers take the field against Georgia Southern next September, but there is no question they have already spent more time throwing the football early this spring than at any point since 2009.

That work begins with the quarterbacks where Lindsey is very hands-on starting with the basics of footwork, delivery, etc. Known as a guy who produces at the position, it’s obvious that Lindsey cares a great deal about how his quarterbacks practice and his goal is on seeing them improve from start to finish.

I believe Woody Barrett has already taken a step forward as a player because of that. To be fair Barrett’s biggest step came in the offseason when he made up his mind to get in better shape. Now looking the part and with a fresh start under a new coordinator, Barrett is someone to take very seriously this spring as he pushes to get into the mix at the position.

 

Bracket Talk

This is the time of year when college basketball steps to the forefront of the American sports scene with the NCAA Tournament getting ready to kick off this week. Thursday and Friday of the first round of the Big Dance has almost become a holiday with fans anxiously watching for upsets to see how their brackets hold up.

With that in mind I thought I would give a few of my thoughts on this year’s tournament with some teams to keep an eye on.

First things first, I’m picking Arizona to win it all this year. Getting guard Allonzo Trier back on the court to go along with freshman standout Lauri Markkanen, the Wildcats have two of the premier players in the country in their starting five. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Sean Miller’s team is that the Wildcats can beat you in a number of different ways.

With size, athleticism and shooting to go along with defense, Arizona is my pick to win it all. My other final four picks are Duke, Oregon and North Carolina.

Now the fun, picking upsets. There are always some rules to follow when you’re picking upsets and the first is that you always pick a 12-seed to win in the first round and maybe more. This year that team could very well be Middle Tennessee State. At 30-4 the Blue Raiders know how to win and have a dynamic player in Alabama native Giddy Potts, something a smaller team needs in tournament play.

I also like Nevada in a 12-5 game against Iowa State because of guard Marcus Marshall. He's one of the best players you've never heard of and has excelled as a transfer for the Wolfpack this season. Interestingly enough, one of the schools he considered was Iowa State. That makes this a fun first round matchup.

Another potential upset for me is in the second round matchup between Kentucky and either Dayton or Wichita State. This is a huge trap game for the Wildcats with the thoughts of a rematch with UCLA on the horizon in the Sweet 16. I still think Kentucky wins, but Dayton has experience and is well-coached and Wichita State may be the most under-seeded team in the entire bracket. This could be a tough one for the Big Blue no matter who they face

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SEC Time For Auburn Baseball

Auburn has a pair of midweek games coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday against UAB and Jacksonville State, but the focus will be on getting the pitching lined up for the Florida Gators when Coach Butch Thompson’s team opens SEC play on Friday at Plainsman Park.

Facing perhaps the top pitching staff in the country with future Top 10 pick Alex Faedo for the Gators, Auburn’s offense isn’t expected to put up big numbers against Florida so it will be up to the pitching staff to get the job done.

The good news is that freshman Davis Daniel had a big week to build confidence heading into league play. Combine him with Keegan Thompson and Casey Mize and Auburn has the best trio of starters in terms of just arm talent than the Tigers have had in a long time. Now the question remains, do they have enough out of the bullpen to get the job done?

This week will probably go a long way towards answering that question with Andrew Mitchell expected to be available again after being bothered by tendinitis. With some concerns about the ability of senior relief pitcher Cole Lipscomb to be able to bounce back multiple times during a week, getting them at full strength along with Corey Herndon is a must as the Tigers get ready for SEC play.

 

Softball Gets Big Series Win

It wasn’t pretty, but for Coach Clint Myers’ Tigers just getting a pair of wins over LSU is a big first step in SEC play. Much like the baseball team, softball still has its share of question marks moving forward as well with the focus on offense.

Going without a home run in the three games against LSU, Auburn had just 18 hits in 74 at-bats (.243). The bottom of the order went just 5-41 (.121), something that is going to make it tough for Carlee Wallace, Kasey Cooper and Haley Fagan to get enough good pitches to hit against good teams. That has been an issue all season long against quality pitching and could be the thing that keeps this team from reaching its potential unless someone steps up.

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