March 14, 2013

Reclamation project

There's really no way to make sense of Auburn's basketball season, which ended Wednesday night with a 71-62 loss to Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Was this team destined to be great? No. Never.

There are major personnel problems that had no reasonable solution. Allen Payne simply isn't built to defend power forwards or take them on with his back to the basket. Josh Wallace is a fine young man, a great representative of Auburn, but inherently flawed as a point guard because he isn't a scorer and doesn't create many opportunities for his teammates.

Frankie Sullivan and, to a lesser degree, Rob Chubb were disappointing as seniors. Teams with three senior starters should be at least average based on the fact that they have so many combined starts. So many nights to figure out why things aren't working and make the kinds of adjustments that reverse bad trends.

Auburn's leaders couldn't do that. They tried. Sullivan worked so hard to be great this season and succeeded in some ways. He helped keep the team together despite losing each of its last 10 games. He's retained his love for the game, his spirit.

That wasn't easy.

Yet defense is what the Tigers really needed Wednesday night and for the 60 nights prior. When Auburn needed a stop, it couldn't get it. Good plays on the offensive end too often led to lapses on the other end that negated the good things.

It was a vicious cycle that yielded a 9-23 record. Now it's over.

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