This year's version of Auburn basketball almost defies description, but one thing's for sure —on a given Tuesday/Wednesday and Saturday the blood pressure of Auburn fans is likely spiking well past healthy levels.
Auburn sits at 24-4 overall and second in the SEC with a 11-4 record, but the Tigers' record belies how good this team is.
The Tigers lost pretty much all of their star players from last season's Final Four run, including Jared Harper, Bryce Brown and Chuma Okeke, and not much was expected of this year's team.
The core of this year's squad all served mostly as backups or in limited roles last season.
Samir Doughty is the only returning player that averaged more than 20 minutes a game last year. He's currently averaging over 33 minutes. The only other player to sniff 20 minutes of game time was Anfernee McLemore, who has moved from about 19 to 21 minutes a game.
Every other starter was around the 12 to 13 minute mark or still playing high school ball, which makes it pretty remarkable that the Tigers find themselves toward the top of the SEC rankings and poised for a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament. It's not just that it's surprising that the Tigers find themselves in such a solid position, though; it's how they've managed to do it — in heart-wrenching style with large second-half comebacks, steely determination and overtime heroics that have resulted in a remarkable 6-0 record in overtime games.
Anyone who's seen the Auburn offense will tell you it's nothing to write home about. It's slow-starting, uneven at best and doesn't feature a weapon of the likes of Brown or Harper from last season. The closest might be freshman Isaac Okoro, who does most of his damage driving to the hole instead of behind the arc.
The defense is often stellar, though, and rises to the occasion when the Tigers need it most, as evidenced by their 10 second-half steals in the win over the Vols.
That dynamic isn't lost on head coach Bruce Pearl.
"We've played 27 games. We know the type of team we have to be to win games," he said. "We haven't been a great offensive team, but when we're playing great defense we're a hard team to beat. We should know that, and coming into games we should have that on our mind."
Other teams the Tigers will face down the stretch will surely have that on their minds, too. Relying on a strong defense while waiting on magic to happen on the offensive end likely won't carry the Tigers far in the postseason. But if they can manage to find a little more consistency with their shots, they could end up surprising us all.