What If The Seniors Did Get Another Year?
Auburn Basketball: What If?
With the unprecedented cancellation of the SEC and NCAA tournaments due to COVID19, the what if game is about all we have as we wait for sports to return. Tournament simulations on video games have been going on, and everyone is wondering what Auburn’s decisive victory at Tennessee to close the regular season would have meant in the postseason. The unfortunate fact is, we’ll never know. Allow me however, to present a what if that while unlikely, is still possible. What if the NCAA grants another year of eligibility to its basketball players? I want to once again state, this will likely not happen, but at least that is based at the moment on opinion and thinking, not fact.
This exercise might be as enticing to Auburn as anyone in the country. A team that won 25 games in a power conference, a team with five seniors who all contributed, would get the chance to play another year. But, as a tv salesman would say: “that’s not all!” Auburn will bring in a recruiting class, that if it can secure the pledge of either Jalen Green or Greg Brown, will be the best recruiting class in the history of Auburn basketball. For the purpose of this article, we will say that Jalen Green, who according to 247’s Crystal Ball has 73 percent of predictions landing him in Auburn, will do just that. We will also keep with those predictions to say Greg Brown will go elsewhere. This puts the Auburn class at four: five star point guard Sharife Cooper (signed) three star power forward Chris Moore (signed) three star shooting guard Justin Powell (signed) and five star guard Jalen Green (not committed, leaning Auburn).
The wealth of depth Auburn would have in combining this senior class and the incoming freshmen would be impressive, however one question remains in roster construction, what about Isaac Okoro? With Okoro’s draft stock soaring throughout the year, I find it hard to believe that Okoro would turn down a potential top five selection.
The counter argument is good. Okoro never got to play in a tournament and his good friend and former high school teammate Sharife Cooper will be at Auburn. But in a down year draft wise, this will likely be Okoro’s best chance to sneak into the top five as most often NBA executives begin penalizing players as they have less development years (a crazy way of analyzing if you ask me but nevertheless it is the current reality).
Assuming Jalen Green is in and Isaac Okoro is out, here is what the depth chart might look like:
Point Guard - Sharife Cooper, J'Von McCormick, Turbo Jones
Shooting Guard - Samir Doughty, Devan Cambridge, Jamal Johnson
Small Forward - Jalen Green, Allen Flanigan, Justin Powell
Power Forward - Jaylin Williams, Danjel Purifoy, Chris Moore
Center - Austin Wiley, Anfernee McLemore, Babatunde Akingbola
There are things that can be disputed of course, secondary positions for players will come into play as well as it’s totally fair to expect J’Von McCormick to start at point guard, the above depth chart is just an idea. What would be hard to dispute is the word to describe the Auburn team laid out above, loaded. Experience is obviously a key ingredient to successful teams in March, but the array of things this team would be able to do well is staggering. Athleticism is obvious, it’s at every position, and almost every player exhibits above average athleticism.
Shooting would improve, there still might not be a Bryce Brown, but Powell can really shoot, Cambridge should continue to find good looks, and Cooper and Green should be upgrades over McCormick and Okoro as both struggled with the three pointer most of the year.
Scoring will certainly not be a problem. Doughty, Green, Wiley, Cooper, and Williams will all have double figure scoring potential, along with J’Von McCormick who averaged 11.6 points a game this year. With Wiley and McLemore and another year of growth for Akingbola, rebounding and post play should continue to be solid, and once again defense figure to at the least not be a weakness with shot blocking at the rim, and guys like Flanigan and Williams getting more experience. Even with a new crop of one and dones at places like Kentucky and Duke, Auburn would figure to be a national title contender from day one.
The what if game is often a heartbreaking game of what if this player made that shot, or this foul wasn’t called. So often moments that can’t be changed. As unlikely as it may seem, it’s not impossible for the what if scenario of seniors getting one more year of basketball to actually happen. Auburn would really be a beneficiary with five seniors that could return, and a great recruiting class.
Auburn already felt confident it could have some postseason success this year, imagine the confidence and determination if they got to run it back.