Auburn's way-too-early basketball top 25 ranking and projected lineup

Auburn’s way-too-early basketball top 25 ranking and projected lineup

The men’s basketball team ended their season much earlier than anticipated in the 2021-22 campaign. As we look to the next season for the Auburn Tigers, head coach Bruce Pearl has reloaded his squad and is poised for another run to the Final Four.

It won’t come easy as the Tigers lose their dynamic frontcourt duo of Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler. The staff replaced them with a top transfer and a five-star signee. Sound familiar? It is the same blueprint as last season when they brought in Smith and Kessler.

As we look towards the next season, ESPN released their way-too-early top 25 rankings.

Jake Crandall/USA TODAY Network

What ESPN Says…

After missing out on five-star forward Julian Phillips, who picked Tennessee over the Tigers, Auburn will have to hope Allen Flanigan returns to his 2020-21 form and is able to shoulder more of the scoring load on the wing. A projected first-round pick in the 2022 NBA draft last summer, Flanigan underwent a procedure to repair his right Achilles in early September and never found a rhythm once returning to the court. He averaged 14.3 points as a sophomore and was ranked No. 19 in ESPN’s early NBA draft rankings — but didn’t appear in a game until late December and averaged just 6.3 points in 22 games. His shooting numbers were down across the board. If Flanigan regains his old form, he could once again be a go-to guy for Bruce Pearl.

Auburn checks in at No. 12 on their way-too-early list (subscription required). Only the Kentucky Wildcats (No. 3 overall) and the Arkansas Razorbacks (No. 8 overall) are ahead of Bruce Pearl’s squad in the initial rankings from ESPN among the SEC teams.

A look at their projected lineup for the Tigers in the 2022-23 men’s basketball season:

Wendell Green Jr, Point Guard

Jake Crandall/USA TODAY Network

Notable Stats:

12 PPG

This spot could be flip-flopped with [autotag]Zep Jasper[/autotag] and [autotag]Wendell Green Jr.[/autotag] returning to the Plains for the 2022 season. Both played a valuable role for the team. Jasper is more of the facilitator and the best on-ball defender for Auburn. Green is more of the sniper, who can be really hot from deep or stone cold.

KD Johnson, Shooting Guard

Gary Cosby Jr. / USA TODAY NETWORK

Notable Stats:

12.3 PPG

The return of the psychopath. [autotag]KD Johnson[/autotag] had his moments when he absolutely took over games for the Tigers after transferring from Georgia. With Kessler and Smith now gone, it could be up to Johnson to carry more of the offensive load for the team.

Allen Flanigan, Small Forward

AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

Notable Stats:

6.3 PPG

Prior to last season, [autotag]Allen Flanigan[/autotag] looked to be the next star for the Auburn Tigers on the hardwood. An offseason injury and the arrival of Smith pushed him to be more of a third or fourth scoring option. If he can return to form, Flanigan could shoot up NBA draft boards once again.

Yohan Traore, Power Forward

Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

No. 27 in the ESPN 100

The firing of Will Wade at LSU was huge for Auburn, it allowed them to bring in five-star big man, [autotag]Yohan Traore[/autotag]. He can be a rim protector for this team and add some offense from the four. Traore can also play the five if needed.

Johni Broome, Center

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Stats:

16.8 PPG (Morehead State)

If you can’t beat them, join them. Auburn is losing a prolific shot blocker with Kessler but added one in [autotag]Johni Broome[/autotag]. He may not have the numbers of Kessler but he very well could be impactful for the Tigers around the rim.

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