If you are anything like me, you have watched very little Auburn Tigers basketball this season ahead of their matchup with the Iowa Hawkeyes. There are certainly some things to discern from the various statistical websites - sports-ref, KenPom ($), Bart Torvik, Evan Miya, to name a few - but there’s something to be said for just watching a team.
I’ve watched three Matthew Loves Ball cut-ups of the Tigers: their November win against the only common opponent in Northwestern, their best win over Tennessee, and their SEC tournament loss to Arkansas. Those videos can be found here:
The full disclaimer on these is that they are largely a compilation of the game’s made baskets. It can be tough to discern a full scout on them, plus I am not necessarily adept at that type of analysis. However, I hope the broad generalities I provide paint a better picture of the team Iowa will face tomorrow.
Tigers on offense:
- The first thing which sticks out is the length/athleticism Auburn can play with. Though their lead guards are small, they’re incredibly quick and Bruce Pearl will use isolation opportunities when opponent bigs switch onto them, especially 5’11” Wendell Green with some 5-out sets. It is a little deja vu all over again with Jacob Gilyard last year. Hopefully he doesn’t similarly burn Iowa. Worth noting it’s a decent gap between Gilyard’s shooting at 36% and Green (30%).
- They run incredibly hot and cold, though, but don’t necessarily ride the hot hand until it cools off as there’s a bit of a “my turn, your turn” feel to their offense. Among the games I watched, nobody made more than three 3s (Jaylin Williams against Auburn). KD Johnson kept them afloat in their eventual loss to Arkansas, though, with 20 points off the bench on 7/10 shooting and 5/6 from the free throw line.
- Johni Broome is an interesting figure for them as their starting center. He’s had some MONSTER games this season - 17 points on 6/11 shooting including a couple threes vs. Tennessee was his best stat-line of the three I watched. For him, it’s just going to come down to foul trouble one way or the other. He has been called for 4.6 fouls/40 minutes and draws 4.3 per 40. Despite that statistic, he hasn’t shot all that many free throws and isn’t particularly good at shooting them (58.3% on the season).
- They didn’t seem to run a ton of action, often relying on those one-v-one mismatches. Maybe it gets lost in the shuffle of these cut-ups but it seems like they took at TON of contested shots. That’s borne out a bit with a 49.6% eFG%, including just 31.4% behind the arc. Seems like most of the shots they take are pretty well-contested. This is an area I believe Iowa needs to be MUCH better at as Fran McCaffery is often comfortable allowing opponents to take low percentage shots. The Hawks must contest those jumpers, though, because if you give them too many open looks, the contested ones even start to look like they’re shooting into the ocean. Green drew fouls on two 3PA in games I watched.
- One area they did run sets was to get open looks inside, especially against Tennessee. As alluded above, they’ll run their offense through Broome and he’s a capable passer with multiple games at four assists or above.
- They can get you in transition and turned Razorback turnovers into points in their comeback attempt against Arkansas. 11 second half turnovers allowed them to turn a 15-point deficit into a lead down the stretch. The crowd in Nashville definitely turned towards Auburn as their fans ramped up their engagement throughout the comeback. That is perhaps the biggest concern about playing in Birmingham is what it may feel like if Auburn builds momentum.’
- Flipside is that they can get really sloppy with the ball. They had 14 turnovers against Northwestern (22.9%) but just 16 combined in the other two games. Thing is...those turns don’t necessarily mean they’ll lose: they had 10 games over 20% turnover rate and lost just twice - at Alabama & at Southern Cal. The games they won, they won big, though so the turnovers may have been a result of being sloppier with the lead.
- Northwestern had 8 blocks and 4 in the first 8 minutes. Might just be that Chase Audige is that good but it stuck out in the watch, though I’m not sure Iowa has anyone who can replicate that. I do think Ahron Ulis will factor in heavily to keep Green from getting going. The offense can run really cold, as they had just 8 points in the final 9 minutes of that game.
- This play looks familiar:
Auburn's final play against Arkansas pic.twitter.com/96e3cxoV1P— Patrick Greenfield (@PCGreenfield) March 10, 2023
Tigers on defense
General note here: because of the bias of seeing made shots, I saw more or less where Auburn struggled and not necessarily where they were effective on this end of the court.
- My first quest was: “who’s gonna guard Kris Murray?” and the answer is obvious in Jaylin Williams. The 6’8” wing has the size and athleticism to stick with him. He’s also left handed so I would be surprised if he got lost in the sauce on trying to keep Murray from getting to his left. Ugh.
- In contrast to the more ground-bound Broome, backup center Dylan Cardwell is particularly adept at defending on the perimeter when he’s got the switch and as a rim protector. I do think he’s prone to leaving his feet early and is called at a sky high 6.0 fouls/40 minutes. Fouling, overall, is an issue for Auburn with a sky high 39.1 FTA:FGA ratio for opponents (331st according to KenPom). Northwestern took particular advantage as they got in the bonus early in the first half and continued playing aggressive. Not sure if it was the Tigers or the refs who overcorrected at half. Fouls didn’t seem to be an issue in either of the other two I watched, though.
- They can get lazy rebounding. Northwestern did a good job generating offense that way but Arkansas especially was great at eating glass by rebounding 50% of their makes. The season-long numbers put them at 317th in the country in opponent ORB%. Iowa’s guards, in particular can take advantage of their size mismatch here. If they go zone, this is an area Iowa can find success.
- Jimmy Dykes called it out on the broadcast but Tennessee did a really nice job freeing up their shooters with physical screens. It’s a fine line, since those could get called the other way but Iowa is likely to generate some open looks. They’ll have to can them. Additionally, the Volunteers did a really nice job cutting to get shots at the rim for their guards in particular. Really really feels like a Tony Perkins Game if Iowa is going to win.
- They went zone against Arkansas EARLY, as the Hogs have struggled with the three for a lot of the season. They did a nice job countering it with interior passing and didn’t settle for jumpers as 39 of their 50 FGA were 2s and they shot 64% on them.
That’s all I got... anything stick out to you in your watching of any Auburn games this year?