#59 Auburn Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview


Auburn Tigers


2017-2018 Overall Rank: #59
Conference Rank: #8 SEC

Auburn Logo
As Bruce Pearl enters his fourth season as Auburn head coach, fans are still waiting for the Tigers to make their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2003. This year will have the most excitement heading into it in a long time as it appears to be Pearl’s most talented squad since he took over in 2014. Auburn has continued to improve upon their conference win total in each of Pearl’s season, winning seven SEC games last season. This year, as two more top recruits join the team, expectations are for the Tigers to finish SEC play over .500 and be in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament bid.
2016-17 Record: 18-14, 7-11
2016-17 Postseason:
Bruce Pearl
Coach Record:
44-54 at Auburn, 506-199 overall
Who’s Out:
Auburn will be without some experienced players that helped them over the last couple of years. TJ Dunans has graduated after spending two seasons at Auburn. Dunans’ playing time and production decreased as a senior, scoring just 8.2 points per game after scoring 11.6 per game as a junior. Ronnie Johnson spent just one season with the Tigers as a grad transfer. Johnson brought maturity and leadership to a young Auburn team, while adding in 7.8 points per game. Reserves LaRon Smith and TJ Lang are also now departed. Smith started three games and averaged 2.6 points and 2.4 rebounds. Lang started nine games, scoring 4.3 points per game while shooting 39.5% from three. Lang elected to transfer after his junior season to finish his college career elsewhere.
Who’s In:
Bruce Pearl adds two more top prospects to his team this year along with two experienced transfers. Desean Murray will have two years of eligibility after transferring in from Presbyterian. Murray won Big South Freshman of the Year and was named to the All-Big South First Team as a sophomore. Murray ranked in the top-30 nationally in points per game with 20.2 in 2015-16. Malik Dunbar will also have two years to play as a junior college transfer. Dunbar averaged 15.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists last season at the College of Central Florida. Four-star recruits Davion Mitchell and Chuma Okeke will both add to Auburn’s talent pool this year. Mitchell is viewed as a potential lockdown defender who should complement Harper’s scoring ability at point guard. Okeke was a top-60 recruit who averaged 24.4 points and 15.0 rebounds as a high school senior.
Who to Watch:
Auburn’s top four scorers were all freshmen and will all be back for the Tigers this season. Mustapha Heron led Auburn in scoring as a freshman with 15.2 points per game while shooting 42.3% from three. Heron was a five-star recruit who lived up to the hype, earning All-SEC Freshman Team honors. Danjel Purifoy and Jared Harper were the next top scorers, both with 11+ points per game. Purifoy shot 36.9% from three and 87.9% from the foul line, displaying his sharp-shooting ability. Harper led the team in assists with 3.0 per game and shot 34.4% from behind the arc. Austin Wiley joined Auburn as a top-20 recruit, but his freshman campaign was a bit of a disappointment. Wiley didn’t join the team until December as a 17-year-old and only played in 23 games. Wiley’s youth showed up as he averaged just 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 18.0 minutes per game. Wiley played for the Team USA U19 World Cup Team this offseason and could be a breakout player in the SEC. Role players Bryce Brown, Horace Spencer and Anfernee McLemore are also all back this season. Brown saw his playing time and production dip as a sophomore, but still provided key shooting from deep, hitting 40% of his threes. Spencer averaged 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game. McLemore averaged 5.4 points and 4.5 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game.
Final Projection:
Bruce Pearl has unquestionably his most talented team since taking over at Auburn. Expectations will be SEC contention and an NCAA Tournament appearance. Getting all the young players to play well together isn’t easy, but having several returning players from last season will ease that burden. The impressive sophomore quartet of Heron, Wiley, Purifoy and Harper have the talent to be one of the better cores in the SEC. Add in top transfer Desean Murray and two new four-star recruits, and Bruce Pearl suddenly has a complete team with minimal weaknesses. If all of Auburn’s talent meshes well together, they have a very high ceiling. However, if there are chemistry and maturity issues, the skill level will be negated and the Tigers could fail to finally reach the Big Dance.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Jared Harper, Sophomore, Guard, 11.4 points per game

Desean Murray, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Mustapha Heron, Sophomore, Guard, 15.2 points per game
Danjel Purifoy, Sophomore, Forward, 11.5 points per game
Austin Wiley, Sophomore, Center, 8.8 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 80.4 (32th in nation, 2nd in conference)

Scoring Defense: 79.6 (321, 13)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.7 (213, 8)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.7 (173, 13)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 9.0 (44, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.6 (100, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.2 (274, 12)
Rebound Margin: -2.4 (270, 13)
Assists Per Game: 13.2 (197, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.6 (234, 10)

Madness 2017 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#43 Chuma Okeke
#55 Davion Mitchell