Auburn, AL: Auburn basketball is finally back. After an incredible 2021-2022 campaign which saw the Tigers rise to the top spot of the AP poll for the first time in program history along with a 19-game winning streak, Auburn men’s basketball is finally back. With the struggles the football program has endured this fall, this is living up to be one of the most anticipated seasons of Auburn basketball to date. As tipoff is only a few days away before the Jungle is back inside Neville area, this article should fill you in on some key details and points to know before heading into Coach Bruce Pearl’s ninth season on the Plains
First, let’s start off with the key arrivals and departures for this teams.
Yohan Traore- The 6’10” freshman from Tours, France comes into Auburn with the potential to have an immediate impact. After originally committing and decommitting from LSU after the fallout from the Will Wade investigations, Traore announced he would be committing to the Tigers last March, immediately making him the fourth best Auburn signee to date. With the ability to shoot the three-point shot and excellent on ball defense, the five-star freshman should see plenty of time on the court this season.
Chance Westry- The 6’6” freshman guard from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was arguably the star of the Tigers preseason tour in Israel, scoring 13 in game one and 18 points in game two. A versatile guard who is able to score inside and create turnovers on defense should see him having quality minutes from the start. He will not be playing at the very start of the season due undergoing a knee surgery a few months ago. He should be back in a few weeks and contributing to this Auburn squad.
Johni Broome- The 6’10” sophomore transfer from Morehead State comes into Auburn with the opportunity to start at the center position along with Dylan Cardwell. After averaging 16.8 points a game last season, along with 10.5 rebounds a game show why Broome was one of the top transfers to hit the portal this past season. His ability to score inside and crash the boards make him a key piece to the Tigers success this season. Broome was also third in the nation last season in blocks per game with 3.9, right below former Auburn Tiger Walker Kessler and above the second overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft Chet Holmgren. Look for Auburn to be high on the SEC and NCAA blocks per game stat tracker this season with Broome and Cardwell.
Jabari Smith- The third overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets, the highest ranked recruit in Auburn history will surely be missed. Jabari’s ability to consistently hit big shots from the mid rang and defensive presence will surely be missed this season inside Neville Arena. He leaves the team in good hands with Jaylin Williams and Yohan Traore competing for the power forward start spot, so do not expect the Tigers to suffer too much from the loss of Smith.
Walker Kessler- The 22nd overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzles, then traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves and then dealt to the Utah Jazz, the 7’1” Kessler departs Auburn after one of the best defensive seasons in program history. Totaling 155 blocks for the Tigers, Kessler was a huge defensive presence for Auburn, earning the 2021-2022 Naismith Men’s Defensive Player of the year and the 2021-2022 SEC defensive player of the year. Kessler leaves Johni Broome and Dylan Cardwell with some pretty big shoes to fill, but the two of them are well equipped for the task at hand.
For the 2022-2023 season, the Auburn Tigers have a tough road ahead to replicate the same regular season success they had last season. Here are some of the most important games for the Tigers this season.
Saint Louis (November 27)- After giving the Tigers a real scare last December in St. Louis last season, the Billikens are one of the top group of five teams in the nation. With the nation’s top assist man returning in Yuri Collins, this will be the Tigers toughest home non-conference game of the season.
Arkansas (January 7)- With the number two ranked incoming recruiting class, Coach Musselman and the Razorbacks are a force to be reckoned with this season in the SEC. After handing the Tigers their first SEC loss last season, Auburn should have some extra motivation going into this home game.
@ Tennessee (February 4)- Returning to where they suffered defeat last season, the Tigers will travel to Knoxville to take on the defending SEC Tournament Champions. Returning most of their starters along with freshman Julian Phillips, this matchup is sure to be one to move the needle in the battle for the top spot in the SEC.
Alabama (February 11)- The Iron Bowl of basketball will start this season on the Plains. After losing some key pieces to the NBA Draft, coach Nate Oats will look to break a two-game losing streak to the Tigers in Neville Arena.
@ Kentucky (February 25)- The first game for arguably one of the most difficult three game stretches to end the season in the SEC, the Tigers travel to Rupp Arena to take on the SEC preseason champion Wildcats. With Kentucky returning the nation’s top player in Oscar Tshiebwe, this will be the Tigers most difficult test when looking at it before the season begins.
@ Alabama (March 1)- In round two of the Iron Bowl of basketball, the Tigers head west to take on the Tide in Tuscaloosa. With the Tigers winning by only four points in Coleman Coliseum last season, expect this to be a physical game that is close for a majority of the game.
Tennessee (March 4)- In the last home game and last regular season game, Auburn returns to Neville Arena to take on the Volunteers. With just four days before the SEC Tournament in Nashville, this matchup will test the Tigers and could very well be the most difficult home game they have all season.
If this season is anything close to what occurred last year, Auburn fans should be in for a real treat from Bruce and the boys.
Auburn basketball starts their 2022-2023 campaign Monday November 7th at 7:00 PM inside Neville Arena as they take on George Mason. The game will be broadcasted on SEC Network +.