Guards Wendell Green Jr. and K.D. Johnson are among the country's best backcourts, but if the 15th-ranked Tigers are going to make a run at another SEC regular-season title, their post play will need to develop as the season progresses.
Enter forwards Johni Broome and Yohan Traore and center Dylan Cardwell.
In a season-opening, 70-52 win over visiting George Mason on Monday, Broome, a Morehead State transfer, Traore, one of the nation's top recruits, and Cardwell, a strong rebounder and defender, provided sound play on both ends of the court.
Broome had 12 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Traore chipped in six and four boards, including three on the offensive end. Cardwell led the team in rebounds (9) and blocks (5), in addition to posting two points and two assists.
"He's a great kid and comes from a great family," Pearl said of Broome. "Extremely hard worker. He has a strong back-to-the-basket game that we will take full advantage of. What's also exciting is that he has the ability to face up and guard all positions on the floor."
Green and Johnson combined for 28 points and seven assists in the win over the Patriots.
The energetic guards also provided tenacious defense on the perimeter and were a big reason why the Tigers forced 19 turnovers. Auburn also limited George Mason forward Josh Oduro to just eight points after he led the Atlantic 10 in scoring a year ago.
"Our defense was really good," Pearl said. "Rim protection was really good. I think we wore them down."
South Florida opened its season with a disappointing 64-61 loss to Southeast Missouri State.
New starters Keyshawn Bryant (South Carolina), Tyler Harris (Memphis) and Selton Miguel (Kansas State) all transferred to USF in the offseason and being asked to play major roles in the Bulls' success this season.
Bryant led the Bulls in scoring with 19 points. He also added five rebounds. Guards Tyler Harris and Ryan Conwell chipped in nine points and three rebounds each. Miguel added four points and four rebounds.
If the Bulls have any chance at upsetting the Tigers, they will have to limit Auburn's chances on the offensive glass, take care of the ball and make free throws.
In the loss to the Redhawks, USF allowed 11 offensive rebounds and turned the ball over 16 times. The Bulls were just 9 of 19 (47.4 percent) from the charity stripe.
"We allowed too many offensive rebounds which led to some kick-out 3s," USF coach Brian Gregory said after the loss to SE Missouri State. "They also did a better job than us at the free throw line. We had a chance to extend the lead in the second half, but were unable to knock down some open shots.
"We'll learn from this and bounce back against a great opponent on Friday. I believe this team is going to grow and get better as we continue to play with three new guys in the starting lineup."
--Field Level Media