It seemed fitting that Coach Bruce Pearl’s team ended the season with a performance that represented the season as a whole.
In Auburn’s loss to No. 1 seed Houston in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Tigers were great at times, mediocre at others and below average at times. That description sums up what was probably Pearl’s most inconsistent team during his nine seasons on the Plains.
Pearl praised his group’s efforts over the course of the schedule after the loss to the Cougars that ended the season one win shy of a trip to the Sweet 16, but also noted he wasn’t satisfied with a 21-win result and is immediately getting to work to upgrade the roster for the 2023-24 season.
Something that could improve the talent level on the court would be having versatile Chance Westry back to 100 percent physically. He was impressive in summer workouts and in the exhibition games played in Israel, but needed knee surgery in the fall and wasn’t ready to compete at a high level so his season was shut down.
Westry, who is 6-6, 197 pounds, will be a redshirt freshman in 2023-24. He can play both guard spots as well as small forward, and he is very good at each position.
With spring football practice at the halfway mark, Coach Hugh Freeze made it clear none of the team’s three scholarship quarterbacks is performing up to the expectations of the coaching staff.
Even before he made those comments, I suspected the Tigers might look to the transfer portal to upgrade the quarterback position prior to the start of the 2023 season. That certainly looks to be a real possibility.
Another area of concern for the football Tigers is a shortage of quality pass rushers. Freeze and his staff definitely need immediate transfer portal help with that part of the defense.
From the notebook
• The men’s squad is in Minneapolis at the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships that runs through Saturday night. That is where the 1997 men’s team swimmers and divers won the university’s first official national championship administered by the NCAA.
Coach Ryan Wochomurka’s rebuilding project is showing progress with the Tigers going into the meet ranked No. 8 nationally.
Last year the Tigers finished 29th at the NCAA Championships, which was its best showing since 2018. There is no guarantee that the Tigers will have a Top 10 finish, but it is almost certain that Auburn will show improvement compared to the 2022 meet.
• The baseball Tigers need a bounce-back series as Georgia visits Plainsman Park for three games starting on Thursday night.
Auburn was swept at Arkansas to open SEC play and UGA was swept at home by South Carolina. The Tigers are dealing with injuries at this stage of their schedule so it is important that a variety of players step up at the plate and on the mound.
• The Auburn women’s basketball team lost by a point at Clemson in a hard-fought second round game in the WNIT to end the season.
The Tigers made major progress in year two with Johnnie Harris in charge and the coach says her expectation is that will continue in 2023-24 with the recruiting class providing more height, more scoring punch and more depth.
Mark Murphy is an award-winning journalist who covers Auburn for 247Sports.
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