Midweek Ramblings From The Plains
How will Auburn replace Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, one of the best duo's in Auburn history? (photo: getty images)
Auburn basketball ended the season as the No. 5 ranked team in the country. While that’s the best finish in program history the Tigers may be the only Final Four team not included in the top four of the final season poll. Duke, a team eliminated in the Elite Eight, received that honor.
While Duke came into the tourney ranked No. 1 Auburn proved its worth by winning 12 consecutive games before losing a one-point game on two controversial calls to eventual national champion Virginia. The two calls were almost universally condemned by everyone except the NCAA, which has no accountability in place for officiating.
No team had a better run as the Tigers defeated blue bloods Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky. However, the only perennial blue blood they didn’t have a chance to face was Duke, giving coaches cause to place the Blue Devils ahead of the Tigers.
Nevertheless, none of it can take away what the Tigers accomplished. They won the regular season SEC Championship in 2018 and were SEC Tournament Champions this year. Their 30 wins are the most in the history of the program. Against all odds they sliced their way through the NCAA Tournament to their first ever Final Four and proved they can compete with the elites of college basketball. And all the credit goes to Bruce Pearl, who deserves to be National Coach of the Year.
What does the future look like without the graduating Bryce Brown and, especially, without Jared Harper who is declaring for the NBA Draft? You can bet that Pearl will have someone to step up.
Of the two leaders, Harper will be the hardest to replace. The best point guard in Auburn history, he was the quarterback of the team. Barring a transfer, expect J’Von McCormick to fill that role. He played really well this year when given the opportunity. Even with the loss of Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, this team is set to be successful in 2020.
All the excitement over the basketball team’s success, has taken attention from other spring sports. The No. 13 softball team is tied with Alabama for first place in the conference after a series win over No. 5 Tennessee.
Auburn is led by junior third baseman Tannon Snow, who may be the best player for the Tigers since Kasey Cooper suited up. Called “a mainstay on defense” by Coach Mickey Dean, she is also a big threat at the plate. On Monday she was named the SEC Player of the week after hitting .667 with six hits in nine at bats, three home runs, a triple and driving in eight runs while scoring four. She has at least one hit in 17 of her last 21 games.
The baseball team is not faring as well mainly due to injuries to the pitching staff. Three weeks ago, the Tigers were 18–2. After losing starter Davis Daniel and Jack Owen, the Tigers have now lost seven of the last 10 and sit at 23–10. Just as concerning is that the bats have fallen off during that span.
Auburn used five pitchers in its 11–6 loss to Jacksonville State yesterday. The five hurlers allowed 10 hits and walked nine. And things could get even uglier, especially in SEC competition, if Owen and Daniel remain out of the rotation.
“I knew once we had a couple of starters down that we would call on a lot of these young players, especially pitchers, to do more,” Coach Butch Thompson said. “But … this is our team now, and you should grow from it. I’m waiting for us to hit rock bottom and get it all out of our system and reset. I think that’s why I’m looking for more. There’s nowhere else to go.”
Auburn plays Texas A&M in a three-game series in College Station beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Our hearts go out to Auburn gymnast Samantha Cerio who suffered horrific injuries to both legs during an NCAA regional at LSU Friday. Cerio, a senior, underwent a two-and-a-half hour surgery to repair two dislocated knees and multiple torn ligaments. Auburn team doctor James Andrews did the surgery. The good news is that Coach Jeff Graba said it was an “extreme success,” and she is expected to make a complete recovery. However, Samantha’s gymnastics career is over. Prayers and best wishes for this Tiger’s complete recovery.
With the frenzy over Auburn’s run in March Madness, it’s almost hard to believe it’s time for A-Day. New running back coach Cadillac Williams is said to be pleased with his top two backs, especially the now healthy Jatarvious “Boobee” Whitlow. And a beefed up Kam Martin should give the Tigers a one-two punch out of the backfield.
Yet, the biggest news coming out of the Plains is about the offensive line. I’m hearing veterans Prince Tega Wanogho, Mike Horton, Kaleb Kim, Jack Driscoll, and Marquel Harrell are looking strong. If that holds true it has to be good news for whomever becomes the starting QB in 2019.
Speaking of which, redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood appears to be in the lead in the quarterback race. However, if you look at recent A Days, the eventual starter has not been No. 1 in the spring.
In addition to the A-Day scrimmage, the school has a full slate of events scheduled, including an Auburn Legends flag football game led by captains Jason Campbell and Ronnie Brown. Gates will open at 1:00 p.m. with kickoff at 3:00 pm.
Hope to see ya there!