Dec 15, 2018 (Akademos, Inc.)
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Injuries A Concern For Men's Basketball

Another Auburn basketball season that started with such excitement has entered phases of frustration early in Southeastern Conference play. But, unlike in the past, the negativity deals with more than just on-court performance.

It’s been joked that Auburn is somehow cursed. From having players dismissed to injuries affecting key players, the Tigers have seen their share of misfortune. And it shows in previous season’s records, as Auburn is still searching for its first NCAA Tournament birth for the first time since 2003.

The 2015-16 season started strong. The Tigers opened the season with a 6-3 record, including wins over UAB, which returned five starters from a team that made the NCAA Tournament last year, and Mercer. Auburn even picked up a win against Tennessee to open conference play.

But, never forget there’s a reason it feels like the Tigers are cursed. This year’s plaque is injuries.

Auburn is hurting — really in more ways than one. Despite having freshman New Williams back in the lineup, the Tigers are without starters T.J. Dunans and Tahj Shamsid-Deen. Danjel Purifoy, who is surrounded by anticipated hype, has yet to be cleared to play.

Shamsid-Deen has been ruled out for the season. Head coach Bruce Pearl recently said it could be another month before Dunans can return.

Pearl has developed a “next man up” mentality, but it goes only so far.

“When Tahj got hurt, next man up Kareem Canty. When T.J. Dunans got hurt, next man up Bryce Brown,” said Pearl, reported “The problem would then be who’s in behind those guys? And so then as a result, we are really getting hurt off the bench not having enough contribution.”

To answer Pearl’s question a little more directly, there’s no one behind those guys. And it shows.

Through Auburn’s first four conference games, the Tigers have had no more than eight players play more than 10 minutes – three of which had seven players. The lack of depth shined brightest in a 76-61 loss to Missouri when Auburn’s bench was outscored 40-5 (Cinmeon Bowers having those 5 points).

The Tigers sit at 1-3 in the conference through those first four games. Despite a 6-point win over Tennessee causing a well-deserved applause from fans, a 12-point loss to South Carolina, 15-point loss to Missouri and 18-point loss to Vanderbilt has deflated sails. It doesn’t help that Kentucky and a surging Alabama team are next on the scheduled followed by road trips to Florida and Ole Miss.

It appears Auburn — yet again — is playing for the future. It’s easy to ask when the Tigers will be at a point to be playing for a possible postseason bid in February and March, but injuries are as much part of the game as anything else.

Maybe Auburn is somehow cursed. There’s a certain point things are too consistent to be coincidental.

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