Show Me My Opponent: Auburn (#1)

LINEUP NOTES

Auburn:

  • If Okoro plays: McCormick, Doughty, Okoro, McLemore, Wiley.
  • If Okoro doesn’t play: McCormick, Doughty, Flanigan, McLemore or Purifoy, Wiley.
  • Pretty much the entire season until the Okoro injury, Auburn’s run out a tight nine-man rotation where Anfernee McLemore is the sixth man. With said injury, though, that’s shifted. Allen Flanigan started in place of Okoro and played 20+ minutes both nights, while Devan Cambridge has picked up a ton of minutes as well. I think in any case you can expect eight or nine guys to play.
  • Best lineups appear to involve Purifoy at the 4 instead of McLemore.

Tennessee:

  • Vescovi, Bowden, JJJ, Pons, Fulkerson.
  • No new news here; Jalen Johnson and Gaines are getting the most minutes off the bench as Plavsic’s role has rapidly dwindled and Nkamhoua isn’t getting much run outside of the random Arkansas explosion.
  • Considering Auburn regularly runs 5-out motion and Wiley is the only member of the rotation that doesn’t shoot threes, I would hope Tennessee fans are immediately infuriated by any Fulkerson/Plavsic lineups. Not only are those spacing disasters, they’re defensive disasters; Plavsic simply cannot stay with any player smaller than 6’9″ or so. If Plavsic sees the court, it should only be when Wiley is at the 5, and it should be as part of a 2-3 minute burst of giving Fulkerson rest. At no point should Fulkerson be shifted to the 4 to allow Plavsic time at the 5. Don’t put Plavsic in the eye of the Tigers if you can help it.

KEY MATCHUPS

Jordan Bowden vs. Samir Doughty. This is a huge opportunity for Bowden. He’s quietly been much better as of late (15 PPG in last 10), even if it hasn’t resulted in an improvement from three. He’s a solid defender, and he needs to stay in front of Doughty in this one.

If Okoro plays, Josiah-Jordan James vs. Isaac Okoro. I don’t think anyone expects JJJ to outscore Okoro, ever. I think we should expect JJJ to hold Okoro’s scoring and offensive impact down, because JJJ remains the best non-Fulkerson/Pons defender on the team. He’s done well against similarly athletic guys. Notably, Okoro’s been held to 20 total points in the two Auburn losses he’s played in; he’s averaged about 13.4 PPG in wins. Holding him under 13 would be a good goal.

John Fulkerson vs. Austin Wiley. In terms of post players, Wiley is this year’s Chris Silva, a fine player that draws an absolutely absurd number of fouls each game. Fulkerson’s got to be really careful and toe the line between good, hard defense and a quick trip to the bench. Last year against Silva, Kyle Alexander never figured that out too well and struggled with foul trouble in both games. Fulkerson seems to be better at this, but this is a big proving ground. I genuinely think that if Fulkerson can play 33+ minutes, Tennessee has a great chance to win the game.

PREDICTION

Auburn 68, Tennessee 64.

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