As we sit here, the Auburn Tigers are no longer ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 and are currently on a three-game losing streak with losses to Kentucky, South Carolina and now Mississippi State this past weekend.
You can blame a lot of things for Auburn’s demise as of late. The loss of big man Austin Wiley, bad defense, and inconsistent play are just a few to name. But is the REAL problem Bruce Pearl? After all, the Tigers are just 13-6 overall, including 2-4 in SEC play.
Much like the Auburn football team, the Tigers had high expectations coming into basketball season They had just won an SEC title — the first under Pearl — made it to the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and signed a nice recruiting class.
But you could see cracks in the pavement as early as last year’s SEC Tournament loss to Alabama.
The Tide dominated the Tigers in the second half of that game and you could tell then, if Auburn is not making 3-point shots, they will probably lose.
That brings us back to Bruce Pearl. It seems like Pearl has built this team on offense and nothing else. Although Auburn is second in the SEC in scoring at 83 points per game, they give up just as many points per game on defense.
Mississippi State alone put up 92 points on the Tigers, despite Auburn scoring their season average. As good as Auburn is on offense, they are just as bad on defense.
Auburn’s offense is like the run-and-shoot offense in football. When it’s good, it’s hard to stop, but when it’s not clicking, it’s easy to beat.
It’s like Bruce Pearl has forgotten that in order to win games, you have to play a little defense, too. Now, at least most of the Tiger’s losses have been close, but when it comes down to it, if they can’t make critical stops at the end of games, what’s the point?
Bruce Pearl has put a lot of pressure on himself and his team. So far, the Tigers haven’t lived up to those expectations. This was a team that was expected to contend for another SEC title. What you have no, however, is a team on the brink of not making the NCAA Tournament at all if they don’t figure things out soon.
You can blame on it on the schedule, the players, or even the defense, but the bottom line is the buck stops at Bruce Pearl.