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Hoops Report, season post-mortem (women’s edition)

Morgan "The Future" Toles.

So part of my absence last week was spent traveling back in time to the middle of last November, where I met with myself to discuss Auburn’s women’s basketball team.

“Wait, you’re only telling me about the Auburn women’s hoops team? Really? Former Jerry asked me. “You can’t tell me how Auburn does in the Iron Bowl? Whether we land Marcus Lattimore? What bowl game does Auburn play, Music City or Liberty? I bet we play East Carolina and it’s a really boring game, am I right?”

“Sorry,” I told me. “Just women’s hoops. And I hate to break it to you, but Reneisha Hobbs is going to tear an ACL and be lost for the year. Two other returning rotation players are going to seriously injure themselves preseason, too.”

“Ouch,” Former Jerry said. “Guess it’s going to be a rough year.”

“Not so fast,” I told him. “Keke Carrier’s going to have a breakout year at center, becoming arguably the biggest game-changer on the team in her admittedly limited minutes. Alli Smalley’s going to overcome an early slump to essentially do her Alli Smalley thing. And though she’s going to have her iffy moments like every freshman point guard, Morgan Toles is going to firmly establish herself as Fortner’s starting 1 for the next three years.”

“Oh,” Former Jerry said. “Then I guess they don’t turn out all that bad after all.”

“Actually,” I told me, “they wind up losing to Alabama for the first time in God only knows how long and fall by 15 points at home to Arkansas, those being the two worst teams in the league.”

“Good Lord,” Former Jerry said. “Must be a total waste of a season. I can’t imagine Fortner taking real heat, but there must be some level of disappointment there, huh?”

“Well,” I said, “you have to take into account that the Tigers finished the year with three upsets of ranked teams, including whippings of top-20 Kentucky and Georgia and an overtime win in Baton Rouge. They also strangled one-time top-25 team Mississippi St. on the road and came within whiskers of beating Vanderbilt at home and winning at Florida and Ole Miss.”

Former Jerry ran his hands through his hair. “OK,” he said. “So they didn’t always show up against the weaker teams on their schedule. But they were competitive against the top teams on the slate, right?”

“Sometimes,” I said. “The Vols beat them by 29 points up in Knoxville. Overall, they lost six different SEC games by 14 or more points.”

“I’m so confused,” Former Jerry wailed. “What about the SEC Tournament? What happened there?”

“They thumped Florida 74-61 in a first-round game. Smalley went off for a career-high 29 points on just 14 shots. Toles added 11 points and 7 assists as the team combined for 18 helpers on their 27 baskets. Four different Tigers finished in double-digits.”

“Sounds like a great start,” he said. “But that seems like a lot of other info you’re leaving out. What happened next?”

“They fell behind by double-digits early in the second half and never challenged the same Kentucky team they’d drilled just a few days earlier, losing by 11. Smalley took 14 shots to score 11 points, Toles turned it over 7 times for the second straight game as the team totaled 20 turnovers, and though Carrier had 9 points, 4 boards, and 3 blocks, thanks to fouls she only played 16 minutes in her final game as a Tiger.”

“Um … all right,” Former Jerry said. “Does that mean … look, can’t you just tell me their final record?”

“Sure,” I told me. “15-16, 6-12 in the SEC.”

“15-16? But with Carrier the only departure and every other major contributor returning in ’10-’11, along with Hobbs? So the future under Fortner still looks plenty bright enough?”

“Yep.”

“You idiot!” he yelled. “Why the hell did you come back in time to tell me that?!? That’s what I’d have guessed would have happened before the season ever started! OK, yeah, I might have said they’d have least snagged a women’s NIT bid–guess that’s where those losses to Arkansas and Alabama really hurt–but overall, the team pretty much performed exactly to expectations. This year, rebuilding, next year, back to the NCAAs. That was really worth showing up from the future and not even telling me if Gus Malzahn takes some other job or not?”

“Well,” I said, “I figured I’d get a clever post out of your response.”

“Hmmmm,” Former Jerry said. “That’s not a bad idea. I’ll remember that come March.”

“I bet you will,” I said.

———————————-

On a final, serious note: thanks and a big War Eagle to Keke Carrier, who leaves Auburn having been a part of two NCAA Tournament teams, one SEC champion, and a major part of this year’s big victories. Wishing her the best.

Photo by Van Emst.

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