Auburn’s Offense Struggling, But It Will Improve

Posted by Greg Mitchell on December 5th, 2014

There were a few things that you knew you could expect from Bruce Pearl’s first year at Auburn. One was a good recruiting class, and another was an entertaining wardrobe. On both of those counts he has delivered. Based on his history of success, you also thought that he could deliver a pretty good offense. Even without much interior depth, the Tigers seemed to have enough perimeter pieces to score at a decent clip, and Pearl also has a track record of coaching up efficient offenses. Here are how his teams ranked in offensive efficiency at Milwaukee and Tennessee:

Pearl Offense Table

Currently, Auburn sits at 173rd in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and the Tigers’ relative inability to score has already cost them dearly this season. Auburn’s ugly loss to Texas Tech on Wednesday night is a case in point. The Tigers defended well with a mixture of man-to-man, 2/3 zone and 3/2 zone defense, holding the Red Raiders to just 0.79 points per possession. This might have been even more stifling if not for a number of late-in-the-shot-clock fouls, but Texas Tech imploded there (17-of-31). The point is that Auburn defended well enough to win, but could only muster 44 points on 36.2 percent shooting and lost on a late runner by Devaugntah Williams. The Tigers were similarly punchless last week in Las Vegas against Tulsa, where they scored only 35 points in a loss. In all three of their defeats this season, they’ve failed to score better than 0.77 points per possession.

Now, this criticism is not entirely fair since this is Pearl’s first year on the Plains and he definitely deserves time to right the ship, but it seems like the Tigers should be a little better than they are. A big part of the problem is that Antoine Mason, the returning Division I scoring leader, hurt his ankle in the opener against Milwaukee and hasn’t played since. Getting him back will help, but it might take time for the offense to adjust with him in it because he is such a high volume shooter. Tahj Shamsid-Deen has also struggled thus far, shooting just 34.0 percent from the field and just 7-of-26 from distance. His rough start can probably be attributed to a shoulder injury he suffered in the opener, but he did make a huge contested layup late in the Texas Tech game that could spark him. KT Harrell has been good and is currently the SEC’s third leading scorer (17.2 PPG), but he needs help and should get it when Mason and Shamsid-Deen are healthy. Another problem is that Pearl probably isn’t playing as fast as he wants. The Tigers are 102nd in the nation in adjusted tempo, but you can expect that figure to drop as the season wears on. Pearl is working with such a thin frontcourt rotation (Cinmeon Bowers is essentially the only true big man on the roster) that he really can’t afford to push the pace.

Auburn needs more offensive production from sophomore Tahj Shamsid-Deen (

Auburn needs more offensive production from sophomore Tahj Shamsid-Deen (

Yet another thing you knew you could expect from Auburn this year was an adjustment period, and for that reason it is not fair to rail on the Tigers. The frustrating part for Auburn is that a slight offensive uptick would have led to a nice win on the road in Lubbock. The Tigers have allowed opponents to post an effective field goal percentage of 57.5 percent against them this season, near the bottom of the list nationally, and the worst among major conference teams. That isn’t good, regardless of the small sample size, but they played a good defensive game against the Red Raiders and held them to a 42.6 percent effective field goal percentage. The pieces are there for Auburn to win games when it defends like that. Right now, however, it is the Tigers’ sputtering offense that is holding them back.

Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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