Auburn basketball: 3 takeaways from the 2020-21 season

Auburn basketball Mandatory Credit: Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn basketball Mandatory Credit: Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports /

2020-21 was not an easy year for Auburn basketball by any stretch. In fact, it may not be a stretch to say that no team from any Power 5 conference had a rougher road from the starting point to the conclusion of the season than the Tigers.

Between the NCAA holding Sharife Cooper back from being eligible to play until the team’s primetime ESPN contest against Alabama at the Auburn Arena (the conspiracy theorist in me has some thoughts), Justin Powell’s scary concussion that sidelined him for the final two months of the SEC schedule, and the team’s ineligibility to even qualify for the postseason at all, and you have the makings of a depressing stretch amid a global pandemic.

At least Bruce Pearl got to come away with his 600th career win in the season’s final game against Mississippi State. Congrats Bruce!

With a fraction of the fans in the stands and little to play for besides pride, the Tigers still managed to provide memorable moments throughout the season, including two upsets over ranked opponents in Missouri and Tennessee and a mostly dominant (UCF and the #1 and #2 teams in the country notwithstanding) non-conference stretch that saw them win two games by 25+ points.

Through the ups and the downs, Fly War Eagle has come away with these 3 central takeaways from the 2020-21 season:

2020-21 Auburn basketball season takeaway #1: Tigers could have another NBA lottery pick in 2021

Sharife Cooper took the SEC by storm in his first couple games, and while he has cooled off, the Auburn basketball program may have produced another lottery pick in 2021 following the #5 selection of Isaac Okoro in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Cooper is currently projected to be selected in the ’20s in mock drafts, but depending on fit, it wouldn’t be a shocker to see a team take a chance on the floor general in the lottery after he showed he can single-handedly commandeer an offense.

2020-21 Auburn basketball season takeaway #2: AUTLIVE continues to inspire Tigers

This season was a trying one for the Tigers that saw more losses than there were wins. That said, no result was more important in 2020-21 than Auburn’s 77-72 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers last Saturday on the Plains.

For the sixth year in a row, the Tigers were victorious in the annual AUTLIVE game, one of the most emotional contests in all of college basketball.

In a year where not much else seemed to go right for Auburn, it was special that the undefeated AUTLIVE record was preserved.

2020-21 Auburn basketball season takeaway #3: The 2020-21 Tigers are going to be a problem

Assuming Cooper is a goner, but Justin Powell and JT Thor decide to stay on the Plains for the 2021-22 season, the Tigers are going to be one of the dark horse teams of 2022 March Madness.

With the Jungle back to full capacity and the imminent arrival of Jabari Smith, 2021-22 is going to be worth the struggles that 2020-21 brought to Auburn athletics.

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