The Auburn Tigers, like the San Diego State Aztecs, have not yet lost a game this season. However, if you look through the Tigers’ schedule, where is their big marquee win? Where is the result which shows that Auburn is a cut above the rest of the teams in the SEC? There isn’t one. Kentucky’s wins over Louisville and Michigan State are very impressive. Auburn hasn’t done anything close to that.
By Matt Zemek
With this in mind, the Alabama Crimson Tide get to host Auburn on Wednesday night. Auburn’s 15-0 record is hard to ignore, but it is reasonable to say that Auburn has not yet faced the toughest part of its schedule. That changes in this game. Alabama has a great chance to bump off its archrival. Here is how it is likely to happen:
1 – The “84 Plan”
Alabama had been averaging 84 points per game before it ran into the brick wall of Kentucky’s defense. If Alabama can score 84 points in regulation against Auburn, it would have to think its chances of victory are good. Auburn has not been an overwhelmingly strong defensive team this season, giving up 79 points to Vanderbilt a week ago and allowing 73 to North Carolina State in non-conference play. The Tigers have not yet become the bothersome defensive force coach Bruce Pearl wants them to be. This is a vulnerable defense Alabama can exploit. Moving the ball faster than Auburn can rotate, generating open 3-point shots and keeping AU off balance, gives Alabama a realistic path to victory. If Vanderbilt can score 79 in Auburn, Alabama can score 84 at home. As long as the Tide’s defense isn’t terrible, 84 should be enough to win.
2 – Contain Isaac Okoro
Auburn has an electric freshman, Isaac Okoro, who scored a career-high 23 points last week. Alabama needs to make home-court advantage in Coleman Coliseum mean something. Using sustained defensive energy – fueled by adrenaline and the crowd in Tuscaloosa – to rattle Okoro would be an equation-changing development and a likely source of an Alabama win. Auburn has some proven veteran players in its lineup who should not be ignored, but containing Okoro would deprive the Tigers of a scorer they count on for meaningful production.
3 – 3-point defense
Alabama allowed Kentucky to make 9 of 15 threes this past Saturday. All the while, Bama was just 4 of 21 on threes versus the Wildcats. The Crimson Tide have to dramatically change the 3-point numbers against Auburn. Failure to do so would mean almost certain defeat.