For the first time in a decade, the Auburn basketball team is off to a 2-0 start in SEC play after it beat the South Carolina Gamecocks 74-71 in Columbia, SC. The Tigers are 8-7 overall.
The last Auburn team to get off to a 2-0 start in SEC play was the 2002-2003 team. That team, coached by Cliff Ellis, featured Auburn basketball greats Marquis Daniels and Marco Killingsworth. It ended the season 22-12 and lost to eventual national champion Syracuse in the Sweet 16, 79-78.
So is it time to buy stock in the 2012-2013 roundball version of the Tigers?
If you're asking if you should buy, sell or hold, you should hold. There are as many reasons to take a wait-and-see approach as there are to be giddy about the 2-0 start.
After a shaky start that saw losses to the likes of Dayton, Rhode Island and Winthrop, Auburn has gained some momentum in recent weeks.
It lost a close game to then No. 15 Illinois, defeated Florida State, beat LSU and then defeated the Gamecocks on Saturday. The Tigers have played well despite losing two of its biggest scoring threats in Chris Denson and Jordan Price to stress fractures.
Denson and Price were averaging 15.2 and 7.2 points per game, respectively before suffering the injuries that will keep them off the hardwood for four to five weeks. In their absence, Allen Payne and others have stepped up to take some of the pressure off Auburn's best scorer, Frankie Sullivan.
Payne has scored 50 points in the last three games. In the three games before that, Payne only scored a combined 33 points.
The highly touted 2012 recruiting class is finally starting to come into its own. The class assembled by head coach Tony Barbee was, by most accounts, the largest influx of talent for Auburn in some time.
Shaquille Johnson, the high-flying freshman guard, followed up a near double-double against LSU with five points in 13 minutes in his first game on the road in conference play.
G Brian Greene Jr. had ice in his veins at times against the Gamecocks. He was perfect from the field (6-of-6) and finished with a career-high 14 points.
Fr Brian Greene Jr. has been huge for #Auburn down the stretch, scoring 5 of past 7 points. He entered averaging 1.8 per game, has 14 today.— Ryan Wood (@AUBlog) January 12, 2013
C Rob Chubb is starting to turn into a more consistent player, specifically on the offensive and defensive boards. Chubb earned a double-double against South Carolina, gathering in 10 rebounds.
"It was huge," Barbee said to Joel Erickson of al.com. "I just wish I had more guys joining him on that rebounding stat."
Chubb has had at least eight rebounds in the last three games.
On the defensive side of the ball, Auburn has played very physical and solid fundamental defense. The Tigers defense does a good job of pushing the opposing offense away from the basket and forcing more outside shots.
As was mentioned, there is reason to take a wait-and-see approach with the Tigers' 2-0 SEC start on the hardwood.
Auburn committed 15 turnovers on Saturday.
Prior to the game against South Carolina, Auburn ranked No. 205 (out of 345 teams) in the nation in turnovers per game. The Tigers have a tendency to try and move a little too fast at times, which results in turnovers. If it weren't for Auburn's 58.5 percent shooting from the field, Saturday's result would have been much different.
Auburn was averaging 42.3 percent shooting going into Saturday's game.
While a 2-0 start is nice and commendable, it should be noted that Auburn's wins in conference have come against two teams in LSU and South Carolina that have first-year head coaches. Both conference foes got off to a very good start and a misleading record due to a very weak nonconference schedule.
We will know a lot more about Auburn this time next week.
Auburn is at Arkansas on Wednesday, and national champion Kentucky visits the Plains next Saturday in what is sure to be a packed Auburn Arena. Kentucky is not playing to the level it was last year, but the Wildcats are always a good measuring stick of where a basketball team is.
The intangibles are there for Auburn.
The Tigers are winning a lot of "50-50" balls and playing hard from start to finish. If Auburn can continue this momentum swing for the next seven days, it may be time to buy some stock in Barbee's team for the first time in his three years at the helm.
For now, it is better to hold and let this team prove a little more to an Auburn fanbase that is hungry for some quality basketball to return to the Loveliest Village for the first time in a decade.
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