There is a lot to like about the direction Auburn's women basketball team is heading. Last year the Tigers won 22 games, were above .500 in conference play, and made the second round of the NCAA tournament. With Coach Flo leading the way, the Tigers should have another successful year.
There are two names every Auburn fan should know heading into this year. The first is Unique Thompson. Thompson had a monster year last year, averaging a double-double on the year. This was the first time someone averaged a double-double for the women's team since 2009. The junior power forward is a force down low, and her 330 total rebounds last year were fourth in school history. Thompson was named to the Katrina McClain award watchlist, which is given to the nation's top power forward. If the Tigers are to have a great year, they will need Thompson to dominate the boards and the post.
The second name Auburn fans should know is Daisa Alexander. Alexander shot 36.1 percent from three last year and averaged 12.6 points per game. Daisa is also a great defender as she tallied up 74 steals last year. Alexander will have a lot of the perimeter scoring responsibilities on her shoulders, as Janiah McKay and Crystal Primm, who combined for 24 points per game last year, both graduated.
Alexander and Thompson are the undisputed best players on the team and the leaders of the team, but there are some new faces who could step up for the Tigers this year.
Annie Hughes is a freshman guard from Dutton, Alabama, who was a top 30 guard in the country coming out of high school. Hughes was also named Miss Alabama in basketball last year as she lead Pisgah high school to a state championship. Hughes averaged 21 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals her senior year, which are incredible numbers for a guard. Hughes may see limited minutes at the beginning of the year, but her talent is undeniable, and she will definitely have a significant impact coming off the bench.
Hughes isn't the only top guard prospect who could be getting minutes for the Tigers this year. Sania Wells was another top 30 guard in her graduating class and will be a freshman at Auburn this year (Wells was actually ranked number 27 while Hughes was ranked number 28). Wells was named to the USA Today All-Mississippi team as a senior in high school as she averaged 27 points, five rebounds, and four steals. It will be interesting to see Wells and Hughes sharing minutes off the bench, but I am excited to see them on the floor together. One thing is for certain, the two of them are the backcourt of the future for the Tigers.
The Tigers strength lies in the perimeter, with a lot of talent and depth at the guard position, so expect the Tigers to be playing a lot of small ball. A lot of new faces dot the roster, with seven newcomers and five freshmen who could see minutes this year. I worry about the Tigers ability to be big in the post, so expect the team to lean heavily on Thompson on the defensive side of the ball down low.
The Tigers have a favorable schedule to start the year. The Tigers shouldn't lose to any of their non-conference opponents and start conference play against Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Florida and Alabama. The Tigers can very easily win all these games and start conference play 4-0. The Tigers have big road trips to Kentucky, Mississippi State and South Carolina this year, but if they can walk away with a win in one of those games, the team should be feeling great heading into the conference tournament.
The Tigers are young right now, very young in fact.