It takes more than seven days to define a team.
But in seven days, Bruce Pearl figures he’ll at least have a pretty clear idea of just where his team stands now.
The Auburn men’s basketball team tips off its regular season against Georgia Southern tonight at 8 p.m. at Auburn Arena — playing a team that’s fast, experienced, and a lot like two more formidable foes coming up for the Tigers later this week.
When all the dust settles, Pearl and the new-look Auburn team should know a bit more about the work ahead of them in 2019-20.
Tonight’s game is set to be broadcast on SEC Network. Georgia Southern was picked by the Sun Belt Conference coaches to place third in that league. On Friday, Auburn travels to play one of the country’s most well-known mid-majors in Davidson, and then plays at South Alabama in Mobile, taking on the team the coaches picked to win the Sun Belt.
In all of them, Pearl expects to see some of the same tests: They’ll be smaller than Auburn, but fast. Where Auburn is learning a new rotation, they’ll be experienced.
“It is going to be extremely eye-opening,” Pearl said Monday as his team prepared for tipoff.
Auburn rolled over Division II’s Eckerd 97-53 on Friday in an exhibition. Tonight’s game marks Auburn’s first of the regular season — and its first on television, allowing more fans to see the Tigers’ new team mixing five scholarship seniors with a host of newcomers looking to fill the voids left by departed Final Four heroes.
“I like the tough opponents,” said one of those new members to the rotation, guard Jamal Johnson. He sat out last season after transferring from Memphis. “It will get us ready for the SEC season and everything.
“We’ve got a good first couple games. Georgia Southern is going to be good tomorrow — tough matchup to prepare us for the upcoming season.”
Georgia Southern averaged 82.6 points per game last season, marking the 15th-best mark in the country. Auburn’s touted tonight’s game as the opening-night matchup to feature the two highest-scoring teams, as Auburn’s offensive attack averaged 79.7 points per game last season.
“I can tell you, if we have some success, I will be really pleased with where we are,” Pearl said, of tonight’s game and of the first three in total. “If we struggle — which won’t surprise me because of some of the new pieces — it’ll just give us more things that we need to work on.
“I do think I’ve got a team that’s going to be very good, and we are going to find out whether we’re good enough Tuesday night.”
After tonight’s game, Auburn plays Friday’s game against Davidson in the Veterans Classic in Annapolis, Md. After the game at South Alabama, Auburn returns home Nov. 15 against Cal State University-Northridge.