- Odds have been released for Auburn ‘s season-opener on Thanksgiving against Saint Joseph’s (FOX, 4:30 p.m. EST)
- Auburn’s top signee, Sharife Cooper, may not be available for action, but the Tigers are still 8.5-point favorites
- Read below for analysis and a pick on the game
After more than a decade spent as a middling SEC program, Auburn has become a program built to compete for conference championships every year under Bruce Pearl.
The charismatic head coach signed what many consider the best class of incoming freshmen in team history in 2020, and they’ll be put to the test immediately. The Tigers open their season as 8.5-point favorites against Saint Joseph’s in the Fort Myers Tip-Off tournament, against a Hawks’ team with quality returning talent from last year.
Auburn vs Saint Joseph’s Odds
|Saint Joseph’s||+8.5 (-110)||+340||O 151.5 (-110)|
|Auburn||-8.5||-430||U 151.5 (-110)|
Odds taken from FanDuel on Nov. 25
New Blood to See Big Minutes for Auburn
Pearl had a lot of work to do in the offseason, when he lost four double-digit scorers from last year’s roster.
Senior Guard Samir Doughty was named First Team All-SEC by the Associated Press after leading the team in scoring last season with 16.7 points per game. His partner in the backcourt, J’Von McCormick, graduated as well, and Sharife Cooper is expected to handle point guard duties and pick up the slack as the team’s top signee. However, Pearl divulged this week that his eligibility is under review, and his availability for this game is in question.
Pearl’s two top big men are also gone from last season’s team. Austin Wiley was a reliable center and scored 10.6 ppg, and if forward Isaac Okoro had not gone to the NBA, Auburn’s frontcourt wouldn’t be quite as unknown of a commodity. Anfernee McLemore was an important rotation player as well, and the freshman combo of JT Thor and Dylan Cardwell are going to need to contribute immediately in their stead.
Veteran Hawks will look to take advantage
Many will look at the fact that Saint Joseph’s only won six games last season, it’s predicted finish outside of the top-ten of its own conference, and expect a top SEC program to roll. Perhaps that happens, but the Hawks have some intriguing scoring potential.
You will never see a buzzer beater like this again.
Ryan ******* Daly. pic.twitter.com/x2jbYdd7lw
— Zac (@zacvoynow) January 12, 2020
With Auburn likely to lean on young and unproven talent to start the season, St. Joe’s head coach Billy Lange is going to need Ryan Daly’s experience to be a difference-maker in this game. The senior guard averaged 20.5 points and nearly seven rebounds per game last season. The Hawks are going to run a smallish lineup with Taylor Funk as the only true big man on the floor for them. For his career, Funk has hovered around nine points and five rebounds per game.
Otherwise, St. Joe’s is counting on Dahmir Bishop to be its defensive stopper and hoping for offensive contributions from Greg Foster Jr., who is eligible this season after missing 2019-20 after transferring from Gonzaga. Freshman Jordan Hall is also a newcomer to the starting lineup, and Lange has loved what he’s seen from him as a facilitator on offense.
At this point, Pearl has earned the benefit of the doubt to come ready with a good team into this game. Although he’s going to need his young players to make an impact from Day 1, they should have the talent to do so. If Cooper isn’t able to play, he may have to get resourceful.
Saint Joseph’s wasn’t particularly efficient on either end of the court last season, but did have some pop to its offense. The Hawks’ returning players are all important pieces to this season’s team, and their experience should at least help them keep the game interesting.
The Pick: St. Joseph’s +8.5
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