Auburn Tigers – Transition Threes

By Randy Sherman

The Auburn Tigers (28-9, #5 Midwest Region) high-powered offensive attack is propelled by transition threes. Let’s look at how they manufacture them. 

The Auburn Tigers love the three-point shot. The Tigers are sixteenth in the nation in three-point percentage, shooting 38.2% from behind the line. Auburn’s 11.5 three-pointers made per game is tops in the remaining NCAA Tournament field.

Auburn has attempted 30 threes per game for the season and that number has risen to 33.7 three-pointers attempted per game in their last three games. 49.7% of the shots Bruce Pearl’s club has taken this year have been three-pointers. These Tigers are not gun shy. (stats per

Many of Auburn’s threes come in transition offense. In advance of Auburn’s Midwest Region Sweet Sixteen showdown with #1 North Carolina (29-6), we took a look at their transition threes and how they manufacture them.


Auburn does not hang their heads when getting scored upon. The Tigers instead seek to outpace the defense by scoring back. Keys to scoring back:

  • A quick inbounds pass – Get it out of the net and inbounded quickly.
  • A high outlet – Make the outlet pass to a player on the move higher than Free Throw Line Extended
  • Width then depth – Players not involved in the inbound and outlet achieve width first then depth
  • Player speed and ball speed – Players not involved in the inbound and outlet sprint the floor. The outlet then gives the ball speed by pitching ahead.

“Cracking The Shell”

Auburn point guard Jared Harper is terrific at pitching the ball ahead. But when no advance pass is available, his mission changes. Harper “cracks the shell” – driving the ball inside the three-point line – to collapse the defense. Auburn’s transition width makes players available in the corners for catch-and-shoot transition threes on kickout passes.

Playing To The Two-Side

Often Auburn ends up with two players running along the same sideline in transition. This is the “Two-Side” and when the ball handler does not attack the empty corner (Frame 1 below), he/she should get the ball to the Two-Side as soon as possible by diagonally passing to either the first or second player on the Two-Side (Frame 2 below).


At times there is a 2v1 advantage on the Two-Side. The two players may need “one more” passes, either up or down (Frames 3 and 4 above), to exploit the advantage for an open transition three.

Turning Defense Into Offense

Like wine and cheese, Auburn’s aggressive defensive style perfectly pairs with their quick strike attack. Turning turnovers and blocked shots into layups or dunks provides momentum plays. Turning turnovers and blocked shots into three-points provides extreme momentum plays.

Much the same as the “scorebacks” and other transition moments above, after gaining possession via the sudden change players gain width then depth with speed and the ball is fired ahead to outpace the defensive recovery.

The North Carolina Tar Heels are also know for their transition offense and lightning fast counter attacking. This Sweet Sixteen matchup features two teams who have no fear of playing fast. Much of this game could potentially be played in transition. Auburn’s ability to manufacture transition threes could provide the edge needed for a Tiger’s upset.

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Randy Sherman is the owner and founder of Radius Athletics - a basketball coaching consulting firm - where he consults with basketball coaches at all levels on coaching philosophy, practice planning, Xs & Os and teaching a conceptual style of basketball. While a head basketball coach at the the interscholastic level, Sherman's teams won 197 games in nine seasons.
March 16, 2019; Auburn Tigers guard Bryce Brown (2) celebrates after a made three against the Florida Gators during a SEC championship series game between the Auburn Tigers vs Florida Gators at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN (Mandatory Photo Credit: Steve Roberts/Cal Sport Media)(Credit Image: © Steve Roberts/Cal Sport Media/CSM via ZUMA Wire)