Unfortunately for Kansas, if you could pick a team to avoid in the second round, it would probably be Auburn. The Tigers have a lot of talent, and they do things on both sides of the ball that are sure to frustrate the Jayhawks.
The first thing that stands out for Auburn on offense is, like Northeastern, the Tigers both take and make a lot of threes. Auburn ranks 8th nationally in attempts as a fraction of total field goal attempts, taking a whopping 49.7 percent of their attempts from behind the arc. And, like Northeastern, they make 38.1 percent of their attempts.
Unlike Northeastern, however, their attempts are concentrated in a couple of players rather than being more spread out. Jared Harper is making 38 percent of his 236 attempts and Bryce Brown has made 40 percent of his whopping 300 attempts on the season.
While Northeastern got a ton of attempts this year off ball movement, Auburn does a lot via pick and roll play. Here’s a simple screen and roll with an overhelp one pass away:
They also love to dribble into 3 pointers off a pick and roll if an opponent doesn’t hedge or goes under a screen. Here is one from the SEC tournament championship game, but they did it often in their first round win as well:
The good news about Auburn loving these types of threes so much is that Kansas hedges incredibly hard up top and their defense is more or less designed, whether intentionally or not, to take away those types of threes.
The obvious counter to that is Auburn is going to attempt to split that hedge and get into the lane where they’ll have multiple passing options, so it will be up to Kansas to keep to the low side a bit and push Auburn away from the basket while also not allowing them to pull up:
It really is all about defending the 3-point line with Auburn. The Tigers rank outside the top 200 in terms of attempts at the rim, and shoot just 51 percent on twos.
Here’s a nice look at why Kansas might be in a little trouble. Just a simple dribble drive causes an overhelp, which leads to multiple nice passes for an open three. It’s nothing fancy, but it shows why you can’t help one pass away against Auburn:
Defense presents another problem for the Jayhawks, in that Auburn leads the country in forcing turnovers, with opponents turning it over on 25.1 percent of their possessions. Needless to say, Kansas doesn’t have the firepower offensively to survive anywhere near that number.
Even if the Jayhawks get it by Auburn, there’s still the matter of scoring against them. Auburn is one of the best shot blocking teams in the country, although their FG% allowed at the rim is roughly equal to Kansas. Still, Auburn has five guys at 6-7 or taller who are long and athletic, which will obviously be tougher for Dedric Lawson to score against than Northeastern’s front line.
The good news is Auburn can consistently be beat up top at the point of attack by a quick point guard. Fortunately, Kansas has one of those. Auburn gives up a ton of 3-point attempts (ranking 326th nationally), so Kansas should have its fair share of open shots. Obviously this year’s team has been anti shooting the three for most of the year, but even if they can get to the mid 30 percent range, that should be enough to where offense won’t be the issue.
So, the keys to the game tomorrow seem to be, in order of importance: avoiding turnovers, guarding the 3-point line, and taking the open three when available. If the Jayhawks can do all three of those, they should win, and even success in two of the three will put them in good shape.