The Auburn Tigers. Picked to place FIRST in the Western Division of the SEC.
Despite the loss of leading scorer and rebounder Mack McGadney in the eighth game because of an ACL tear, the Auburn Tigers managed to have a respectable season in 2000-2001. Their conference record was 7-9 and overall they were 18-14, with a trip to the NIT and a win over Miami (Florida) before elimination by Purdue. From that team two starters and a useful reserve have been lost. One of the departed starters, Jamison Brewer, was a 6'4" sophomore guard who averaged 8.4 ppg and, amazingly, led the team both in rebounds (230) and assists (168). Brewer entered the NBA draft and was taken in the second round. Two seniors completed their eligibility: four-year starter Scott Pohlman (12.5 ppg); and reserve guard Reggie Sharp (2.1 ppg). However, the Tigers will return seven experienced players and have five promising newscomers. A division title is a strong possibility.
The starting point guard will be sturdy 5'10" senior Lincoln Glass, who averaged 7.2 ppg, and had an excellent assist to turnover ratio (72 to 41). He is also a reasonably good three point threat (31.9%). His main help will come from outstanding freshman, 6'4" Dwayne Mitchell, who averaged 28 ppg and 6 assists in his senior high school year at John F. Kennedy in New Orleans. Mitchell is very highly-regarded and could easily become a four-year starter. Back at shooting guard is Adam Harrington, 6'5" junior, who averaged 15.5 ppg and hit 34.1% of his three-pointers. Harrington is a shooter who conceivably could become the leading scorer in the SEC. Playing behind him will be 6'4" JUCO transfer Derrick Bird, who averaged 20.3 ppg at Schoolcraft College and hit 45% of his three-pointers. The Tigers appear to have four quality guards.
Marquis Daniels, 6'6" junior, developed into a third team all-SEC player last year, after the season-ending injury to Mack McGadney, now a 6'7" senior. Neither of these players have been effective three-point shooters, but both should start. Daniels averaged 15.7 ppg and 7.0 rebounds and made 52.2% of his shots, but only 22.9% of his three-point shots. When McGadney went out, he was averaging 15.0 ppg and 8.3 rebounds, but only 25% of his few three-point efforts. McGadney is the more strongly built and of the two, better suited to play the power-forward position. Pushing them for playing time will be Abdou Diame, slender 6'9" sophomore (7.0 ppg, 3.3 rebounds). Diame is fully capable of starting if the injury bug strikes again, but he never shoots from three-point territory. Also available are two 6'8" freshmen, Marco Killingsworth and Brandon Robinson. The 230-pound Killingsworth averaged 30 ppg and 13 rebounds at Central Park Christian Academy in Birmingham and the high-leaping Robinson's figures were 17 ppg and 11 rebounds at Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts. Both look like future starters. Also recruited was
6'7" Greg Johnson, a sophomore product of Southern Union College, but evidently he won't play as his name is being omitted from the list of recruited players.
Back to start at center is 6'10" Kyle Davis, who blocked 83 shots as a freshman starter last year. Davis averaged 4.8 ppg and 5.9 rebounds, figures which are likely to improve in his sophomore year. His backup is 7'0" Marin Bota, a native of Croatia, who was used sparingly last year (0.7 ppg, 1.0 rebound). It is likely that Diame will often be used as backup center; he actually played more total minutes last year than Davis (681 to 606).
Harrington, Daniels, and McGadney are already stars and many of the other Tigers have a lot of potential. The recruits constitute one of the best groups of newcomers in the country and arguably the best in the SEC. Davis is a shot-blocking center. Auburn should have a skilled and athletic team. Cliff Ellis is an experienced, capable coach.
An injury to starting point guard Lincoln Glass might prove to be a problem hard to solve. None of the four experienced front-line players (McGadney, Daniels, Diame, Davis) are known as three-point threats.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
The contributions of the newcomers, especially Mitchell and Killingsworth, are likely to determine if Auburn wins a division championship or falls short. If they provide a lot of help, as I predict, this team should win the western division.