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Ironically Auburn has faced the same problem in basketball they have faced in football. Believe it or not, www.masseyratings.com indicates the 1-6 football team has the 23rd best defense in the country - but at 120th best the offense has barely been a FBS level unit (124 FBS teams). Likewise, last year the basketball team had the 4th best defense in the SEC (0.989 points allowed per position in SEC play according to www.kenpom.com), but by far the worst offense in the SEC (0.906 points scored per trip).
In my database of projections for more than 2000 D1 basketball players at www.valueaddbasketball.com, it looks clear that with just a little offense Auburn could climb as high as 8th in the SEC this year. My database projects that seven SEC teams are in the top 35 in the country, so the top half would be tough to crack, but beating out the rest of the conference this year is possible and could portend a very good long-term future.
If you want details on the database refer to this Sports Illustrated article, but basically
any player with a projection of at least 1% impacts his team's scores by 1% and is a solid BCS sub, and anyone with a 3% of higher is a strong BCS starter. Based on the projected improvements a senior would usually make based on Frankie Sullivan's numbers last year, he projects to improve Auburn’s scores by 3.14%. As a whole, Auburn’s total of 14.33% is better than Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.
However, if Sullivan and Noel Johnson are back to 100% this year, their Value Adds could easily improve enough to get Auburn's offense out of the basement and push them past Georgia, South Carolina, LSU and Texas A&M to be the 8th best team in the conference. It may be tough to move higher this season since Value Add has the other seven SEC teams in the top 35 in the country, but Johnson’s projected 0% is based on a season with a bad hand injury, and Sullivan was already the 22nd best player in the SEC at 4.14% by 2010 before the injury, so could go much higher that their database projections show.
The problem for Auburn's offense last year was that four players - Rob Chubb, Willy Kouassi, Josh Wallace and Verez Ward - all had 0% Value Add ratings on the offensive side of the court. Some may be surprised Ward is in this list, but he made so many mistakes (turnovers, missed shots) that he was costing the team more points than he was adding on offense. Chubb and Wallace are two of the reasons the defense is so good, so they have a key role, but this year Auburn must build on the strong defense they helped provide points on the wing or elsewhere.
Where could the points come from?
Where could the points come from?
INSIDE: Despite the non-existent offense, both Chubb and Kouassi were among the nation’s better shot-blockers to deny teams at the rim. While Kouassi is gone, junior college transfers Ashauhn Dixon-Tatum (6-foot-11, 1.0% Value Add) and Shareif Adumu (6-foot-8, 0.5%) must score from inside. The fact that both project a positive means they have potential to contribute at the BCS level based on their JUCO play last year.
GUARDS: Wallace and Ward also helped the defense by being among the better steals guys in the country, so Wallace is at very least a strong roll player when pressing. Chris Denson and freshman Brian Greene project as Auburn’s next best players behind Sullivan and Price, so If N. Johnson and Sullivan are back to form Auburn could have four potential offensive threats at guard.
WING: Two 6-foot-5 freshman could provide a huge breakthrough as guards on the wing. Jordan Price is already projected to be 57th best of almost 200 SEC players, and his 2.16% projected Value Add puts him close to a strong BCS starter (typically 3.0%). If Shaquille Johnson comes in slightly above his projected 0.84% to the 1% of a solid BCS bench player, Auburn could have a great freshman duo on the wing. Value Add puts them ahead of veteran Allen Payne (6-foot-6), so it will be interesting to see if Barbee sticks with the experienced players or if Value Add’s projection that the younger players are actually slightly better will indicate playing time. In any event, players usually more than double their value between their freshman and sophomore season, so Price and S. Johnson could point to a very strong 2014 team.
The offense will have to come from somewhere, but breakthroughs by some of these players could easily move Auburn basketball up the ladder as high as 8th in the new 14 team conference. Here are the notes on the entire ladder.
|1||Florida||32.16||Boynton/Young top 10 in SEC & top 100 in US|
|2||Missouri||32.04||Pressey/Dixon top SEC duo (17th/42nd in US)|
|3||Kentucky||31.51||Repeat tough with Noel only top 100 in US|
|4||Arkansas||29.83||BJ Young surprise SEC MVP?|
|5||Alabama||28.46||No. 1 def, and Releford one of top 30 in US|
|6||Tennessee||27.18||Golden/Stokes/Maymon top 250 in US, top SEC trio|
|7||Mississippi||27.06||5 players in top 500 in US, none top 200|
|8||Texas A&M||19.81||big gap between 7th and 8th - very balanced, no stars|
|9||Louisiana St.||19.06||Hickey 14th best in SEC|
|10||South Carolina||18.76||Harris 10th best in SEC|
|11||Georgia||15.89||Caldwell-Pope 1-man team, poss All-American|
|12||Auburn||14.33||Higher if Noel Johnson and Sullivan back 100%|
|13||Mississippi St.||12.35||No top 500 players in US|
|14||Vanderbilt||8.08||No top 500 US players - big rebuild|
John Pudner is an Auburn resident whose Value Add system has been covered by Sports Illustrated (see below), NBC Sports and ESPN’s national basketball blog. He wrote baseball columns for the New York Post, and was named the top Sports News Writer in Virginia. He is a periodic guest on ESPN Auburn.