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Bruce Pearl gives season preview

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Bruce Pearl shares challenges and advantages Auburn faces for upcoming season

Updated Sep 25, 2019; Posted Sep 25, 2019

3 minutes

Thirty-seven days and four hours before Auburn basketball’s season kicks off, Bruce Pearl met with the media to give a preseason review.

In the 2018-2019 season, Auburn went 30-10. It won the SEC championship to Tennessee and then made it all the way to the final four before losing 63-62 to Virginia. Auburn returns seven seniors and two starters for the upcoming season.

Pearl said Auburn faces a unique challenge this year in terms of schedule as well as its age. The players are almost all seniors or newcomers, so they will have to balance experience with youth. Below is a recap of what Pearl said:

BRUCE PEARL:

-- He’s entering his 41st year in college basketball, 25th year as a head coach. Can’t believe it. Especially can’t believe he’s third in seniority in the SEC.

-- He’s got an interesting challenge with a bunch of seniors and a bunch of freshman and not many in between.

-- The schedule is challenging and features some interesting opponents. Davidson is one of them. “No one schedules Davidson... Some great coaches and the team’s hard to guard.”

-- They’re in a series with South Alabama, which will be challenging.

-- The research for prostrate cancer at UAB is growing, and they’re helping it launch by playing there.

-- Best way to see Auburn play might be to buy tickets to an away game since there aren’t many seats in Auburn Arena.

-- As they start practice, they will see if they can build on some of the successes and failures they’ve already had. He’s already had to reteach some things. The learning curve is their biggest challenge.

-- He’s excited about their length and athleticism.

-- They have a veteran front line with Austin Wiley, Danjel Purifoy and Anfernee McLemore. The question is who will the other two be.

-- Danjel became one of the hardest workers in the offseason. He needs to be more assertive, though. He’s at the closest he’s been to being able to put his talent and work ethic together.

-- All the newcomers came with the knowledge that there’s a senior class in front of them. Some may see some time this year, but for all of them, this season is about getting ready for next year.

-- Freshman forward Isaac Okora is a “physically dominating player.” Said his number was retired at his high school. He will have to get over a mental hurdle when shooting the basketball, but he’s extremely coachable with a high basketball IQ.

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As good as the Tigers were last year, I really believe coach Pearl's Tigers will be better this season.

Edited by auburn4ever

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5 hours ago, auburn4ever said:

As good as the Tigers were last year, I really believe coach Pearl's Tigers will be better this season.

I have a hunch that could be a possibility too if all the pieces fall into place. It seems like we have a team filled with unselfish guys, and if/when CBP can get them to play as a unit, they could become lethal.

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On 10/25/2019 at 11:12 AM, auburn4ever said:

As good as the Tigers were last year, I really believe coach Pearl's Tigers will be better this season.

 

On 10/25/2019 at 4:41 PM, AUTigersfan89 said:

I have a hunch that could be a possibility too if all the pieces fall into place. It seems like we have a team filled with unselfish guys, and if/when CBP can get them to play as a unit, they could become lethal.

I keep seeing people saying we could be better this season. Can yall give me any reasons why you think we can be better? and what do you mean by better? Better than final 4, better than 30 wins? 

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Just now, JwgreDeux said:

 

I keep seeing people saying we could be better this season. Can yall give me any reasons why you think we can be better? and what do you mean by better? Better than final 4, better than 30 wins? 

Making the Final Four takes luck, so I'm not implying that we can get further than that. 30 wins kind of goes hand-in hand with making the Final Four. I think we can make some noise in regard to the conference regular season title, and the tournament title as well.

More balanced scoring is my biggest point. 3-point shooting and a turnover-causing defense lead to our success last year. In a way, we got lucky to get so hot from behind the arc at just the right time. We also were hitting 3's outside of Auburn Arena which we struggled with usually. Remember that slump we had at the beginning of SEC play? I think we can avoid that with this team because our scoring options will be more diverse. It was frustrating at times seeing us brick 3 after 3 because we couldn't get anything else going.

By better, I mean that most fans may look at this year's team and agree that they could beat last year's team if they went head-to-head or if it's a scenario where they play 5 times, who wins 3?

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Certainly you have to get on a hot streak to make a final four run, but that was not luck. Three point shooting is not luck, we won games in that stretch that we didn't shoot great. Last year's team was much more that just a team that got hot from 3, looking at them that way is a disservice to them. 

 

I think your definition of better is interesting, but I would think most fans would consider the team's body of work vs another team's body of work to determine who had a better season. It will be hard for any team to surpass what they accomplished last season, and it would be hard for any team to beat last year's team with the way they were playing down the stretch with Chuma healthy. 

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I really want to see South beat them just because of my raising, but I do feel like they're going to beat them by 40. Ill be on a medical absence and back home during that time so Ill try to catch the game 

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2 hours ago, JwgreDeux said:

Certainly you have to get on a hot streak to make a final four run, but that was not luck. Three point shooting is not luck, we won games in that stretch that we didn't shoot great. Last year's team was much more that just a team that got hot from 3, looking at them that way is a disservice to them. 

 

I think your definition of better is interesting, but I would think most fans would consider the team's body of work vs another team's body of work to determine who had a better season. It will be hard for any team to surpass what they accomplished last season, and it would be hard for any team to beat last year's team with the way they were playing down the stretch with Chuma healthy. 

I agree with just about all of this, but we do have some excellent 3-point shooters on the team this year, and the defense has been getting some praise also. I know these points are 'what-ifs', but that was the condition I said in my original statement.

In terms of the quality of 'better', I'm thinking of the football comparison between the 2004 team and 2010 team. I've heard a lot of fans say that the 2004 team would've beat the 2010 team, and I believe that is because they were more balanced in a few areas. I think Duke was probably a better team than we were, but they faltered against MSU. That's another thing that makes the loss to UVA so salty is we were set up so well to win the title going against TTU. I thought we matched up so well with them.

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On 10/29/2019 at 4:40 PM, Dual-Threat Rigby said:

I forgot that UAB game sent our season into a near tailspin last season. Maybe this'll be more interesting than I think it will 

Yep.  Was at that game and it was a buzz kill.  Also it was the first purifoy game.  I said It was gonna take 10 games for him to work his way in and it took longer.  no unsubstantiated rumors because team chemistry was the intangible that made last years team better than the sum of its parts.

this years team will take the ooc to fully figure it out.  But we have the advantage of a bunch of leaders.  Then our youth will stumble to begin sec play.  Happens all the time.

the casual fan wont understand why we lose to the south’s and Davidson’s in preseason then take a few knocks to start sec - particularly on the road.

by seasons end, every team we face will worry about us.

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Anyone looking for this team to be better is going to be disappointed. I wouldn't be surprised if they struggled just from the stand point of having a strong leader or two. I know J'von and Samir will be looked to but I don't see their personalities being like the trio of Jared, Bryce, and Malik. How will they handle adversity when they hit the wall that many young teams do? Who is going to take over when shots aren't falling. Those are unknowns this year that will make or break a tournament appearance.

 

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We will sorely miss Malik and Horace's toughness. It didn't show up on the stat sheet but those guys were our enforcers from a personality and play standpoint. None of the returning guys have that in them (that's not a knock on them, for the record) and it's going to be asking a tonnnn for a freshman to be able to carry that responsibility.

Malik had spark plays and was the first guy to get in someone's face if someone tried to bully one of our guys. Combine that with Horace's all out hustle and also refusal to back down to anyone that is going to lead to a major void of overall team toughness this year IMO. Doesn't mean we can't be a good, solid team that makes the NCAA's but something to watch for IMO

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1 hour ago, Tiger said:

We will sorely miss Malik and Horace's toughness. It didn't show up on the stat sheet but those guys were our enforcers from a personality and play standpoint. None of the returning guys have that in them (that's not a knock on them, for the record) and it's going to be asking a tonnnn for a freshman to be able to carry that responsibility.

Malik had spark plays and was the first guy to get in someone's face if someone tried to bully one of our guys. Combine that with Horace's all out hustle and also refusal to back down to anyone that is going to lead to a major void of overall team toughness this year IMO. Doesn't mean we can't be a good, solid team that makes the NCAA's but something to watch for IMO

Malik was also instant stats off the bench. Points, rebounding and defense, to label him just a hustle guy would be a disservice. Horace, was the classic hustle guy off the bench. I think we brought in enough to find someone to replace his contributions, not to in any way convey he didn't make valuable contributions. Malik will be tougher to replace. I think this team will be ok in that department with our increased size at the 3 spot. Last year Malik was coming in at the three for a small Samir. This year we are likely to see Okoro starting there and other traditional size 3's playing that spot. 

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9 minutes ago, JwgreDeux said:

Malik was also instant stats off the bench. Points, rebounding and defense, to label him just a hustle guy would be a disservice. Horace, was the classic hustle guy off the bench. I think we brought in enough to find someone to replace his contributions, not to in any way convey he didn't make valuable contributions. Malik will be tougher to replace. I think this team will be ok in that department with our increased size at the 3 spot. Last year Malik was coming in at the three for a small Samir. This year we are likely to see Okoro starting there and other traditional size 3's playing that spot. 

For sure, I just think the stats are the easiest part to replace regarding Malik -- and that's not a knock on his production at all but replacing his 6 ppg and 3 rebs a game shouldn't be as challenging in a vacuum. The intangibles that came with his stats IMO will be a big time question mark this year unless one of the freshman just have it. I mean having somebody like Dunbar off the bench last year was a big time luxury because he was electric. Like you said, instant stats, a big body, usually the most athletic on the floor, but his leadership and toughness IMO is something you're born with and none of the returnees have shown to have that quality and I don't know if any of the freshman will be ready to fill that role.

My point was not to ignore Malik's production on the floor but to highlight all he did in addition to that which I feel personally is being overlooked. But damn am I going to miss his presence during games. The highlights, the dunks, the blocks...he even was a guy who could get you a big bucket when everyone else was struggling.  He did that countless times his junior year and a few times last year.

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I'll always remember his effort against the updykes 2 years ago, when we only had 7 scholarship players available. Magnificent performance! That game showed just how much Bruce Pearl is worth to AU basketball. One of my all time favorite wins

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My mother in law got to meet Coach Pearl today in Dayton TN. She is a resent widow and he made her day. Here is the text she sent me. Monkey is her friend and both are in their mid eighties. Proud to have Coach represent my school. 

 

 

Monkee called today to see if I would meet her in Dayton for lunch as she was going to funeral home in Dayton.  She wanted meat and 3 so we met at Dayton Cafe.  We were searching the menu when I saw 3 or 4 people come and I told Monkee "I know that guy from somewhere.  I thought for a minute and said "That's  Bruce Pearl.  Monkee said "Who is that"?  I had to explain.  We got ready to leave and I waited for her to go to restroom and when she got back to table she wanted to go to The Gathering Place.  I said if we are going there then I need to go to restroom.  Now the restroom is one door in and out of both men's and ladies restroom and backed up to tables.  When I came out the passage way was blocked by Bruce Pearl preparing to leave.  I stood patiently and he turned to leave and saw me and apologized and I replied "That's all right, WAR EAGLE".  He grabbed me and gave me the biggest smile and hug I've had since losing Papa John.  It made my day and one I hope to remember.  
 

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