LSU slipped to No. 24 in Thursday’s Top 25 And 1 rankings after Kessler’s 16 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocks paced No. 8 Auburn
Way back in July, well before this season started, I identified Auburn’s Walker Kessler as the transfer likely to make the biggest impact at his new school. Turns out, I was wrong — if only because the transfer making the biggest impact at his new school is Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe. But, either way, Kessler showed Wednesday that he can be a real difference-maker on both ends of the court by finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocks in Auburn’s 70-55 win over LSU.
Yes, 11 blocks.
The 7-foot-1 center, who started his college career at North Carolina, is now averaging 4.2 blocks per game, which ranks first nationally among power-conference players. He was the main reason Auburn held LSU to just 28.6% shooting from the field. Incredibly, Kessler had three blocks against LSU before LSU scored its first bucket, which helped launch Auburn to an 18-1 lead in the opening 10 minutes.
“I think that we have, if not the best defense in the country, one of the most elite ones,” Kessler said after recording just the second triple-double in Auburn history. “I think we showed that tonight.”
Kessler is right that Auburn has “one of the most elite” defenses in the country. The Tigers are sixth in adjusted defensive-efficiency, according to KenPom.com. It’s among the reasons they’ve won nine straight games since losing to UConn in double-overtime the day before Thanksgiving.
As for Kessler specifically, he’s clearly starting to get really comfortable and productive playing beside freshman star Jabari Smith, who has emerged as a legitimate candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. After getting off to something of a slow start, Kessler has scored at least 13 points in four straight games and is averaging 15.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.8 blocks in that stretch.
Auburn remains No. 8 in Thursday morning’s updated CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 daily college basketball rankings. For what it’s worth, KenPom is now projecting Bruce Pearl’s Tigers to win the SEC regular-season title by multiple games.
Itching for more college hoops analysis? Listen below and subscribe to the Eye on College Basketball podcast where we take you beyond the hardwood with insider information and instant reactions.