College Basketball National Title Contender: Why There’s Great Value on Auburn

College Basketball National Title Contender: Why There’s Great Value on Auburn article feature image

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Bruce Pearl (Auburn)

After detailing an argument for why Alabama has value to win the National Championship, I’m now going to reach across the aisle.

As we look ahead, one team stands out as an emerging contender — the Auburn Tigers.

Auburn possesses a unique blend of talent, coaching experience and a winning culture that could propel it to success into March and April.

Let’s delve into the key factors that make Auburn a formidable force and why it has a legitimate shot at winning it all in 2024.

Well-Rounded Roster

First and foremost, the Tigers boast an impressive roster that combines seasoned veterans with young, emerging stars.

Auburn is coming off its most impressive performance of the season, defeating Arkansas by 32 on the road at Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks are admittedly reeling at the moment, yet they defeated Duke earlier this season.

The core of Auburn is anchored by experienced players who've been battle-tested in previous seasons. Johni Broome is playing at a first-team All-American level in the frontcourt, with Jaylin Williams and Dylan Cardwell providing plenty of depth and athleticism to support Broome.

Newcomers Aden Holloway and Chad Baker-Mazara are bigger question marks in the backcourt, but both have been phenomenal at limiting turnovers and relying on their bigs.

The synergy between the seasoned players and the budding talents creates a dynamic, well-rounded team that's been able to adapt to different playing styles and scenarios.

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The Bruce Pearl Effect

Auburn's success is also attributable to its exceptional coaching staff, led by head coach Bruce Pearl.

Pearl has proven himself as one of the top coaches in the nation, consistently elevating the performance of his teams. Adding Holloway is just the latest example of his ability to sign and recruit skilled players that match his style.

His energetic, motivational style has proven successful in the past. His most notable success at Auburn would certainly be his 2019 run to the Final Four, which included wins over Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky along the way.

With years of coaching experience — including deep tournament runs — Pearl has instilled a winning mentality in the program that's crucial.

Can't Stop This Offense

One of the Tigers' strongest assets is their offensive prowess.

Auburn's offensive strategy revolves around a fast-paced, high-scoring style of play that puts immense pressure on opposing defenses. The team excels in transition, capitalizing on turnovers and creating fast-break opportunities.

Their roster is filled with athleticism and is flanked by sharpshooters, allowing Pearl to exploit mismatches and keep opponents on their heels throughout the game.

Don't Count Out the Defense Either

The Tigers' commitment to defensive intensity can't be overlooked either.

In fact, the balance of offense and defense is documented by their KenPom efficiency ratings. Interestingly, Auburn ranks ninth in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency. All national champions from the last decade have ranked, at minimum, in the top 40 on both sides of the ball.

Auburn’s desire to play an up-tempo, high-pressure style is not at the detriment of its ability to keep its opponent from scoring.

A championship team must be able to stop its opponent on nights where the shots might not be falling, and Auburn has demonstrated the ability to do just that. The coaching staff emphasizes a tenacious and disciplined defensive approach that disrupts opponents' offensive schemes.

Whether it's stifling perimeter pressure or playing help-side defense and blocking shots in the paint, the Tigers have the defensive tools to make life difficult for any opponent.

Deep & Versatile

A key aspect that sets Auburn apart is its depth and versatility. The Tigers boast a deep bench, allowing for strategic rotations and fresh legs during critical moments.

Auburn has played 10 different players this year that average at least 15 minutes per game, with no individual player averaging more than 24 minutes.

This depth also provides ample insurance against injuries or foul trouble.

Moreover, the versatility of Auburn's players allows the Tigers to adapt to various matchups, making it challenging for opponents to exploit weaknesses.

Ready for High-Pressure Situations

Another critical factor in Auburn's championship aspirations is its experience in high-pressure situations. Many of the players on the roster have tasted postseason success and understand the mental fortitude required in the stress of an NCAA tournament environment.

Furthermore, the Tigers have consistently performed well against top-tier competition in the nation’s second-best conference. Facing a tough SEC schedule toughens Auburn and will likely expose areas that need improvement.

Auburn's ability to compete and win against high-caliber opponents will give it experience to draw upon when the NCAA tournament arrives.

Pick: Auburn to Win NCAA Tournament (+3000 @ DraftKings)

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Sean Treppedi
Apr 12, 2024 UTC