Looking at Tiger Football and Basketball

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about the Tigers.

Random thoughts on a cool Tuesday morning…

Neither too much nor too little should be made of Auburn's basketball team's sudden swoon.

The 7-0 start was probably misleading. Though it seemed going into the season that College of Charleston, Colorado State and Western Kentucky would be solid opponents, none of them turned out to be as good as expected.

The worst thing about losing 82-69 at UNLV was that the Tigers played so poorly--throwing the ball away for no reason, running into each other. A 77-72 loss to Georgia State was bad because it was at home. Georgia State is a good team, probably better than UNLV.

What both losses showed is just how badly Auburn misses point guard Lewis Monroe. Ian Young has done an admirable job of filling in, but Auburn will be a much better team when Monroe is back and at full speed.

A few weeks ago, I thought this was a certain NCAA Tournament team. Now I think it's a team that will be around .500 in the SEC, give or take a game, and may or may not be an NCAA team. That could change depending on the impact of Monroe and freshman center Dwayne Curtis.

Long, Hard Month

It's been just more than a month since Auburn defeated Alabama 28-23 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It has not been a month that will be fondly remembered by Auburn people.

First came news of the trip made by president William Walker, athletic director David Housel and trustees Earlon McWhorter and Byron Franklin. Then came news of the SACS probation.

So far, no one has been held accountable for any of it. Walker is still sitting in the big office, Housel is still athletic director and McWhorter is still president pro-tempore of the Board of Trustees. Any or all of those things could still change. January could be an interesting month.

Music City Woes

Nashville's Music City Bowl, where Auburn will play Wisconsin on Dec. 31, has not been kind to Southeastern Conference teams. In the bowl's five seasons, the SEC is 0-5.

A lot of those games have been downright embarrassing. Alabama set the tone by losing 38-7 to Virginia Tech in the first Music City Bowl in 1998. Kentucky lost 20-13 to Syracuse, Ole Miss fell 49-38 to Ole Miss. Georgia lost 20-16 to Boston College and Arkansas 29-14 to Minnesota.

On the positive side, Alabama and Georgia won SEC championships the season after they lost in Nashville. SEC teams seem to struggle in bowl games at the end of seasons they view as disappointing.

Auburn will have a big challenge on its hands against the Badgers next week. Tiger players and coaches have been impressed with what they've seen on tape. Though it finished 7-5, Wisconsin lost four close games and could easily have had a much better record.

Bowl Game Preparation

Finding the right mix of practice and rest to get ready for a bowl game is one of the trickier problems college coaches face.

At the height of his career at Alabama, Bear Bryant went eight straight years without winning a bowl game. Three of those teams were 11-0 in the regular season.

Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez seems to have found a secret. The Badgers are 7-1 in bowl games under his watch.

Potpourri…Georgia State's Nate Williams, a 6-11 forward, is the best college basketball player I've seen so far this season… Auburn football coaches say privately the turmoil of the last month will probably cost them four to five prospects they would have otherwise signed…It appears likely that tailbacks Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown will both return for their senior season… Transfer Kenny Irons, junior college signee David Irons and returnee Lemarcus Rowell will join the Auburn team in January.

Merry Christmas to all…

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