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5 questions this offseason

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5 questions facing Auburn basketball this offseason

Updated 12:13 PM; Posted 12:12 PM

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl communicates with the team as they take on the Charleston Cougars in the first half in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Viejas Arena on March 16, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

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By James Crepea

jcrepea@al.com

Auburn basketball faces a number of questions this offseason, the most pressing of which is whether Bruce Pearl will continue leading the program.

Pearl just completed the fourth year of a six-year contract and given the success Auburn had on the court this season, winning a share of its first SEC regular-season title since 1999 and appearing in its first NCAA Tournament since 2003, a new deal would seem obvious under any other set of circumstances.

But as anyone who's even remotely followed college basketball over the last seven months knows, these are not usual circumstances for Auburn.

Until certain issues are addressed it'll be hard to forecast and look ahead to the 2018-19 season with any degree of certainty.

Here are five questions facing Auburn basketball this offseason:

1) Will Bruce Pearl be retained as head coach and when will that decision be made?

This seems like a somewhat ludicrous question given Auburn's success this season, but the much-publicized rift between Pearl and Auburn president Steven Leath during the fall created the uncertainty as to who would lead the program in the future. Pearl is confident, based on his coaching all season and the ongoing dialogue with school administrators, that he'll continue as coach. Those administrators, specifically Leath and new athletic director Allen Greene, have not provided any sense of clarity. To be fair, there is still a process involving the NCAA that has to be completed, but nobody in power is publicly aligning themselves with Pearl yet either.

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This stalemate can't continue indefinitely. How soon it'll conclude is unclear.

Once a decision is made on Pearl, assuming he's retained he can then reshape his staff.

"That's a good example of one of the things we'll need to do is continue to rebuild the staff," he said as to whether he'd seek a new assistant coach. "I've got a lot of guys out there that would love to come work for me at Auburn."

2) What is the fallout from the internal and NCAA investigations?

After missing this season due to their involvement in the FBI's case against Chuck Person, Austin Wiley can play next season, if he returns, and Danjel Purifoy has to miss the first nine or 10 games and intends to return. The rest of the penalties and sanctions for the program will be decided in part by the NCAA.

What will be the fate of support staffers Frankie Sullivan and Jordan VerHulst after being put on paid administrative leave for the last five months? There's no clear timeline for when that'll be known.

Based on the timeline outlined in the federal complaint against Person, it would appear there would be some wins vacated from 2016-17 season due to Purifoy's family receiving improper benefits.

Beyond that it's difficult to forecast how broad or narrow the NCAA will be in levying penalties on 36 programs that are reportedly under review.

3) Who stays and who goes?

Mustapha Heron and Austin Wiley are expected to at least enter the draft process and get evaluated. Pearl said he could see more players doing so and given how players can get evaluated and return to school, there's no real harm in doing so.

With Purifoy already declaring his intention to return, Auburn will have a big piece back even if Heron leaves. If Wiley returns then Auburn's lack of size is obviously far less of a concern, though he still has to prove he's durable after multiple leg injuries.

The best case scenario is everyone comes back and Auburn has 12 scholarship players available next season. The worst case scenario would depend on if Auburn were to change coaches, which would likely lead to a mass exodus. If Pearl is retained, then the worst case would seemingly be Wiley and Heron leaving and Auburn can overcome those departures and still be competitive next season.

The possibility of changes goes for the coaching staff as well. Even if Pearl is retained there are still questions as to whether Chad Prewitt would remain as a full-time assistant or go back to director of operations and if Sullivan and VerHulst will be allowed to return.

4) What's the impact on recruiting?

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As of today, Auburn has one open scholarship for next season and no commitments to its 2018 recruiting class. Much will be determined before signing day on April 11, but first is the possibility that 2019 commit Babatunde Akingbola reclassifies and signs in this year's class.

If so, Auburn would add a 6-foot-8 center to the mix next season regardless of what Wiley does. If Akingbola stays as a 2019 recruit, then Auburn has at least the one opening it can fill or not this offseason.

Pearl can't answer all concerns recruits might have about the future at this time, but he's confident about the roster.

"I'm not in position to be able to make those decisions, but our recruiting is in position," he said. "This class, as I've said from all year long, it's just not a strong class. So, we weren't looking to bring in a lot of guys this year, in this class. I don't anticipate it. This roster will be competitive, very competitive."

5) What can be done to get the core three guards to play better together again?

Auburn's success came when Heron, Jared Harper and Bryce Brown played well together and didn't all try to go it alone offensively. The last month of the season was the total opposite of that.

Whether Heron returns or not, the offseason will be focused on getting the core of offensive weapons to play like they did for first 25 games and not the last nine.

There is also a need for greater leadership from the players, regardless of who returns.

Both Brown and Horace Spencer, the lone juniors on the roster, said there were "already past" the loss to Clemson less than an hour after the 84-53 throttling. There's something to be said for moving on, but also for someone in the room to express disappointment, embarrassment and even anger after such a pitiful display. Auburn didn't have that level of accountability among its players this season and it's not something easily found and usually can't be taught.

Here's what Pearl had to say as to whether he'd rather hear his upperclassmen say they moved on so quickly after a season-ending loss or express some emotion.

"One of the things we did last year, in winning 18 games and coming up short of the postseason, is we examined where we failed and we fixed all the areas that we needed to fix and as a result, we had a much better year," Pearl said. "We will look at the same thing going into next season. Where are the areas we came up short? We'll fix it and not get beat the same way."

James Crepea is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @JamesCrepea.

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Priorities this offseason - Give Bruce Pearl a raise and an extension, get Wiley & Heron back, move Chad Prewitt back to his previous role, hire a dynamic recruiter, & load up for 2019 recruiting class.

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Priority..get rid of hack beat writers. Auburn should put severe restrictions on hacks and limit their access.

Creap is worthless

"After missing this season due to their involvement in the FBI's case against Chuck Person, Austin Wiley can play next season, if he returns, and Danjel Purifoy has to miss the first nine or 10 games and intends to return. The rest of the penalties and sanctions for the program will be decided in part by the NCAA."

Who says there will be any? Were they directly involved? Apparently not much, meanwhile Sexton took money, contacted an agent and played except one game.

 

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On 3/24/2018 at 1:08 PM, Randman5000 said:

So you really love posting Crepea articles? Everyone hates that guy

It's better that @aubiefifty posts them here rather than us giving Crepea the clicks. I appreciate the article postings

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On 3/24/2018 at 12:08 PM, Randman5000 said:

So you really love posting Crepea articles? Everyone hates that guy

i post articles i think folks are interested in and not who writes them randman. i have probably mentioned this a dozen times but there is always a hater somewhere. there are days when the evile empire known as al.com have the only articles available. but also, a lot of the al.com stuff i actually get off tigerland.  but thanks for bashing!

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5 hours ago, aubiefifty said:

i post articles i think folks are interested in and not who writes them randman. i have probably mentioned this a dozen times but there is always a hater somewhere. there are days when the evile empire known as al.com have the only articles available. but also, a lot of the al.com stuff i actually get off tigerland.  but thanks for bashing!

Maybe I am bashing but some people don't want to read articles by that turd and that's why they come here or other sites. To have them still show up consistently is alittle ridiculous. 

 

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2 minutes ago, Randman5000 said:

Maybe I am bashing but some people don't want to read articles by that turd and that's why they come here or other sites. To have them still show up consistently is alittle ridiculous. 

 

i have had this convo several times and the vast majority said they wanted to be able to read the articles. since we share this forum and except for a small minority on here maybe you should iggie me or ignore my posts and then you will not have this problem. i cannot make it any clearer. if there is news of my beloved auburn i will post it. period. and that is my right.

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3 hours ago, Randman5000 said:

Maybe I am bashing but some people don't want to read articles by that turd and that's why they come here or other sites. To have them still show up consistently is alittle ridiculous. 

 

Don't click and if one does accidentally, then hit the back button

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41 minutes ago, bigbird said:

Don't click and if one does accidentally, then hit the back button

You should take your own advice

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43 minutes ago, augolf1716 said:

You should take your own advice

Why do you think I don't see many of yours

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6 minutes ago, bigbird said:

Why do you think I don't see many of yours

weird seems you post on almost all my post. Maybe you need to check your blockers

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I’d rather we not try to filter the articles that fifty posts. Especially basketball as we get fewer of those articles and I’d like to know what the outside world is also reading.  I also didn’t think the article was half as bad as you’re making it out to be myself.

Fifty posted a similar article and I hated the content of the article around a month ago. I attacked the article from its points. Wouldn’t have been able to that otherwise because fifty pointed the article out from a source that I don’t follow.

Edited by aujeff11
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Boys boys...let's play nice now...

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10 hours ago, aubiefifty said:

there are days when the evile empire known as al.com have the only articles available. but also, a lot of the al.com stuff i actually get off tigerland. 

This is true.

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7 minutes ago, aujeff11 said:

I’d rather we not try to filter the articles that fifty posts. I also didn’t think the article was half as bad as you’re making it out to be myself.

Agree...most of it was pretty much accurate with some supposition ...and questions which is his right  to raise.

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I'm certain that Creepy hates it, but his first two questions have been answered. Pearl isn't going anywhere and there is no remaining fallout. About recruiting, we have one, (1) slot. No big deal either way. The three guards will play as well as they ever have when Brown gets over his injuries. That leaves only one question to be answered and that's who, if anybody, goes pro this off season. Try as he might, he couldn't come up with a successful "I hate Auburn" article.

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I'm glad we can all agree that crepea sucks! haha

But with AD coming out with support of Pearl this offseason looks a LOT clearer. Hopefully a quite offseason followed by another successful year next year on the court will translate to a HUGE recruiting haul in 2019. The train is in motion now we just gotta keep it going!

 

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On 3/26/2018 at 4:53 PM, bigbird said:

Don't click and if one does accidentally, then hit the back button

I do but I find them every where. Just venting the frustration.

 

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14 minutes ago, Randman5000 said:

I do but I find them every where. Just venting the frustration.

 

That's how I feel about Golf too

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