Men's hoops. As you know, tonight Auburn will host UT-Martin in the first round of the NIT. This is a much bigger deal than it sounds: this is the first postseason appearance of any kind for Auburn's men's basketball team since eventual national champion Syracuse eliminated the 2003 team by a point in the Sweet 16. A smaller step forward for the program than the ached-for NCAA Tournament berth? A milestone that the program will be all-too-happy to pass on the way to bigger and better things (if they do)? Yes. But it's a step forward nonetheless, a milestone all the same.
Of course, it's easier to say those things if Auburn wins. As long as the Tigers aren't too hungover from the NCAA snub, they will. The Skyhawks are in some ways a very similar team to Auburn: they shoot a lot of threes without really converting very many of them, predicate both their offense and defense on ball control and disruption of same, and don't make much offensive hay at the foul line (albeit in Martin's case because they don't draw fouls, rather than an inability to shoot them). The differences are that Martin doesn't cause nearly enough turnovers to be a good defensive team given their horrid FG defense ... and, of course, that bad defensive record has been put together against a schedule much, much kinder than Auburn's.
Make no mistake--Lester Hudson is an incredible player, a future NBA roster guy. (Check out Kenpom's offensive rating listing--the only other guy in the top 10 who uses as many of his team's possessions as Hudson is that Stephen Curry fella. Anyone can become the nation's second-leading scorer if they shoot enough; making an efficiency list like that is a bit harder.) Thanks to sophomore off-guard Marquis Weddle, Hudson isn't a one-man show, either. But there's just not enough help. If Auburn plays anywhere close to their usual level, it's an easy victory.
But but but: after the disappointment against Tennessee and the NCAA drama, who knows what level they'll play at? They're saying the right things--I particularly liked Robertson pointing towards playing in the Garden--but no team that lost to Mercer and barely escaped the clutches of UT-Pan American can say any win is for certain. Your time to shine, Jeff Lebo: get these guys ready for tonight in spite of everything that's happened, and consider if another feather in the cap.
Women's hoops. I've been a little slow in mentioning it, but DeWanna Bonner received the first of what's likely to be a series of All-American honors from, um, ESPN.com. Still: not much question she deserves everything she gets.
The Lehigh game will be Saturday at noon Eastern/11 a.m. central on ESPN2, by the by. Plan accordingly.
Baseball. Plainsman Parking Lot puts the 2-1 series win over Tennessee in Knoxville last weekend into some perspective for us:
Auburn did something it hadn’t done in a long time, winning an SEC Opening series on the road, for the first time since 1997 and the first time it won an SEC opening series since 2003. Wow, marks of 9 and 6 years respectively.Wow indeed. The Sunday night loss to the Vols snapped an 11-game winning streak, but at least Auburn's in the top half of the SEC for the first time in who knows how long. Huzzah! Of course, it won't last long if the Tigers repeat too many performances like the 7-6 flopsweat win over Charleston Southern last night, but it's something.
Softball. Hmmm, maybe I should just skip this? The Tigers suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of a Kentucky team that went 3-25 in the SEC last season. Somehow I doubt that's a very good sign.