It may not be the easiest season for Auburn Basketball in 2020-21, but they will at least have a regular game-night highlight in the form of Sharife Cooper–ranked in Busting Brackets’ SEC preseason Top 10.
The War Eagle suggests Auburn Basketball fans avoid going around and circling important dates on the 2020-21 calendar for SEC play. The Tigers are not expected to be a top team this season, though who really knows how things will unfold in what should be the most unpredictable season of really any sport ever this coming year.
Either way, pundits aren’t bullish on their chances of winning a conference title in 2021, projecting a seventh-place finish:
Auburn is starting the season about where head coach Bruce Pearl expected — in the middle of the pack in the SEC. The Tigers were picked to finish seventh in the SEC this season in the preseason media poll, the league announced Thursday afternoon. Tennessee was predicted as the league’s winner, followed by Kentucky, LSU, Florida, Alabama and Arkansas before Auburn rounded out the top half of the projected standings.
“As you start to see the league being picked by magazines or experts or coaches, I think you’ll see Auburn basketball someplace in the middle to the lower-half of the league as far as what folks’ expectations are,” Pearl said last month.
On a team level, the Tigers got no love. That trend continued on an individual level too:
The league also released its preseason All-SEC teams, as chosen by the media, with zero Auburn players earning first- or second-team preseason All-SEC honors and Florida’s Keyontae Johnson chosen as the preseason SEC Player of the Year.
While it may seem like things are bleak this upcoming season, just remember there is one shining light that should power Auburn to an upset win or two: Sharife Cooper.
Cooper is fleet of foot and appears to have the ball on a string with his graceful dribble-moves and stepbacks. While more of a finesse finisher than someone who relies on overpowering athleticism, Cooper’s ceiling could be a somewhat undersized Ja Morant.
Busting Brackets luckily sees his potential as well, with Holden Walter-Warner listing him as the #9 prospect in the SEC entering the 2020-21 season:
While Cooper is a good scorer, his best skill is his passing and he’s highly proficient at finding ways to get the ball to his teammates. Nevertheless, he’s going to need to score for an Auburn team returning very little from a year ago.
None of the returning players from last year’s squad averaged even five points per game. No upperclassmen are expected to be in the starting lineup and Cooper is very unlikely to be the only freshman starting on opening night. While that brings a lot of scrutiny, it can also bring a lot of opportunity for Cooper.
Cooper has a chance to break out on the national stage this season if COVID-19 protocols can be followed to the point of minimal game cancellations. Assuming that happens, FWE will have our popcorn ready as we watch with bated breath as the Tigers look to defy the odds in an uber-competitive SEC.