Morning Musings: Down, But Not Out
USA TODAY Sports
I was in St. Louis this past weekend… covering the SEC Tournament for Mizzou’s campus radio station. Overall, it was a wonderful experience that was tainted only by early losses for both Auburn and Missouri in each team’s first game.
Well, that, and the Alabama radio crew sitting directly in front of me.
During the second half of the Auburn-Alabama game, the crew’s producer was clapping and openly cheering on press row—a big no-no for credentialed media.
At first, other media members laughed and shrugged it off, not taking the unprofessional producer too seriously. However, when the same guy began yelling at players and referees from his spot in the front row, people began to take notice. Giggles quickly turned to silent glares.
When the game ended, the crew turned to familiar faces in the crowd and began to yell and celebrate with Alabama fans that made the trip. Other Alabama media members passed by, delivering fist bumps along the way, until one journalist shouted from behind, “Take the victory party somewhere else!”
It was entirely unprofessional and, frankly, embarrassing for the University of Alabama to have representatives act so inappropriately in a work setting.
Now, moving forward… if Auburn wants to make any sort of noise in the tournament, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper need to get it going. As of late, the pair of guards have struggled to find a rhythm offensively, and it appears that Brown is still nursing a shoulder injury.
Whether that’s been affecting the junior guard in-game, I don’t know, but I do know that he, along with Harper, has been shooting extremely well during shootaround and in practice. Why those shots no longer land in a game setting remains a mystery.
As it stands now, with the team in its current form, there are very few scenarios where Auburn is able to make it past the Sweet 16.
One positive moving forward… is that Bruce Pearl and the Tigers held their first contact practice in four weeks on Tuesday. With just eight scholarship players available, the concern with contact practices was entirely related to injuries, but this time of year, it’s win or go home.
It’s crucial for a slumping team to find change somewhere within the process, and the switch to contact practices might just be the change that is necessary for a tournament run.
The team has had plenty of rest with just one game in nearly two weeks, so fatigue will no longer be a concern. And as disheartening as it was, the loss to Alabama may have been the wake-up call that this team needed.
The worst outcome for this team is to go out with a whimper. The players deserve more than that. Overcoming all of the adversity—the allegations, the rumors, the gossip—this group of student-athletes is too mentally tough for it to end in a similar fashion to Auburn’s 2017 football season. The similarities are there, but they can be put to rest with a strong tournament run.
It’s been a truly magical season, and no one can take away what this team has already accomplished. But it doesn’t have to end just yet.
Never be comfortable. Finish strong.