March 4, 2013

Dissecting the slide

AUBURN | Make no mistake about it: We're seeing Auburn basketball at its lowest point in a very long time.

Tony Barbee knew this was coming. A non-conference schedule that included a bevy of mediocre teams (and some epically poor ones) was designed to give this team a dose of early-season confidence.

Instead, Auburn lost to most of those mediocre teams with only two notable exceptions - Florida State and College of Charleston. The Jan. 2 win against the Seminoles created a wave of enthusiasm that yielded confidence and a 2-0 start to Southeastern Conference play.

It was only a blip.

Barbee's team has dropped 13 of its last 14 games, all against SEC opponents. Only a highly improbable win against Alabama on Feb. 6, a game in which the Tigers trailed 23-13 in the second half, has kept the team from usurping Mississippi State's claim as the league's weakest squad.

Don't breathe a sigh of relief just yet. Auburn plays at Mississippi State in the regular-season finale on Saturday, which could change the pecking order.

So what's wrong with the Tigers?

Several things. Auburn is one of the least efficient offensive teams in America. Guard Frankie Sullivan is posting career-worst numbers in two-point shooting (45.3 percent), three-point shooting (27.7 percent) despite being asked to carry a huge portion of the scoring load.

He's cracked the 10-point barrier once during the past month.

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