Conversation with AL.com's James Crepea

Conversation with AL.com's James Crepea

There isn't much history between Illinois and Auburn. Illini fans and Bruce Pearl, though? Oh yeah, there's a history. The two teams could meet in the Maui Invitational, so we got AL.com's James Crepea to break down the Tigers:

What was the dynamic around the team last year with the FBI investigation and arrests colliding with one of the best seasons for the program in some time?

On the staff there were times of great chaos in the early going, not only because they were blindsided by it all, but the firestorm that came just before the season when Auburn's president and Bruce Pearl were at a stalemate as to Pearl's meeting with the attorneys the school hired to investigate. Once cooler heads prevailed there and the season got underway, things really were in a bubble of sorts. On one hand, it's hard to believe players weren't impacted by all the outside noise, but if they were, there's no way that team wins the SEC if it's distracted. As the wins increased, the focus on basketball did as well.

Who will Bruce Pearl turn to as a replacement for Mustapha Heron?

Individually, Samir Doughty will be asked to fill most of the role Heron played last season. Doughty is more of a slasher than Heron, who never seemed to fully utilize his skills there. But in order to fully replace the aggregate of Heron, whose outside shooting dropped last season, Auburn will rely on Danjel Purifoy for outside shooting. Hard as it may be to believe, Auburn should actually see addition by subtraction in this regard because the team's big three stars (Heron, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper) were not on the same page during the last 10 games and something needed to change in that dynamic.

What will Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy (once he's eligible) bring to the Tigers in 2018-19?

Wiley brings size, which Auburn has sorely lacked. That goes to offense, where the Tigers desperately needed more of an inside presence to boost poor field goal shooting, and to defense for rim protection and rebounding. It'll also help prevent teams from overcommitting to Auburn's shooters and free them up.

Purifoy brings another wing shooter and size mismatch for some small forwards. He was a defensive liability two years ago but might benefit from being on the wings more than against power forwards.