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.
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Top 25 And 1 rankings
|James Akinjo finished with 27 points and nine assists in Tuesday's 104-68 win over Northwestern State. The Bears' next game is Saturday at Iowa State.||--||27-7|
|Paolo Banchero finished with 23 points and eight rebounds in Wednesday's 76-65 win over Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils are currently on a COVID pause.||--||32-7|
|Jamie Jaquez finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds in a 67-56 win at Marquette on Dec. 11. The Bruins are currently on a COVID pause.||--||27-8|
|Zach Edey finished with 21 points and five rebounds in Wednesday's 104-90 win over Nicholls. The Boilermakers' next game is Monday against Wisconsin.||--||29-8|
|Julian Strawther finished with 15 points and four rebounds in Tuesday's 93-63 win over North Alabama. The Zags are currently on a COVID pause.||--||28-4|
|Christian Braun finished with 22 points and four rebounds in Wednesday's 86-59 win over Nevada. The Jayhawks' next game is Saturday against George Mason.||--||34-6|
|Gabe Brown finished with 24 points and seven rebounds in Wednesday's 81-68 win over High Point. The Spartans' next game is Sunday at Northwestern.||--||23-13|
|Walker Kessler finished with 16 points, 11 blocks and 10 rebounds in Wednesday's 70-55 win over LSU. The Tigers' next game is Tuesday at South Carolina.||--||28-6|
|Boogie Ellis finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in a 67-53 win over Georgia Tech on Dec. 18. The Trojans are currently on a COVID pause.||--||26-8|
|Izaiah Brockington finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds in a 79-48 win over Chicago State on Dec. 21. The Cyclones' next game is Saturday against Baylor.||--||22-13|
|Josh Carlton finished with 20 points and five rebounds in Wednesday's 80-47 win over Texas State. The Cougars are currently on a COVID pause.||--||32-6|
|Davion Warren finished with 15 points and two steals in Tuesday's 75-53 win over Alabama State. The Red Raiders' next game is Jan. 5 at Iowa State.||--||27-10|
|Arizona missed 18 of the 27 3-pointers it attempted in Wednesday's 77-73 loss at Tennessee. The Wildcats' next game is Jan. 8 at Arizona State.||1||33-4|
|E.J. Liddell finished with 28 points and nine rebounds in a 73-55 win over Wisconsin on Dec 11. The Buckeyes are currently on a COVID pause.||1||20-12|
|Tennessee was without two of its top three scorers in Wednesday's 73-68 loss at Alabama. The Vols' next game is Wednesday against Ole Miss.||2||27-8|
|Noah Horchier finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds in Wednesday's 70-65 win over Seton Hall. The Friars' next game is Saturday at DePaul.||7||27-6|
|Seton Hall missed 15 of the 19 3-pointers it attempted in Wednesday's 70-65 loss at Providence. The Pirates' next game is Saturday against Villanova.||1||21-11|
|Tre Mitchell finished with 14 points and six rebounds in Tuesday's 78-33 win over Incarnate Word. The Longhorns' next game is Saturday against West Virginia.||--||22-12|
|David Roddy finished with 19 points and seven rebounds in a 66-63 win over Mississippi State on Dec. 11. The Rams are currently on a COVID pause.||--||25-6|
|Justin Moore finished with 17 points and three rebounds in a 71-58 win over Xavier on Dec. 21. The Wildcats' next game is Saturday at Seton Hall.||--||30-8|
|Xavier missed 17 of the 23 3-pointers it attempted in a 71-58 loss at Villanova on Dec. 21. The Musketeers' next game is Jan. 7 at Butler.||--||23-13|
|Oscar Tshiebwe finished with 13 points and 20 rebounds in Wednesday's 83-56 win over Missouri. The Wildcats' next game is Friday against High Point.||--||26-8|
|Noah Gurley finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds in Wednesday's 73-68 win over Tennessee. The Crimson Tide's next game is Wednesday at Florida.||1||19-14|
|LSU missed 23 of the 29 3-pointers it attempted in Wednesday's 70-55 loss at Auburn. The Tigers' next game is Tuesday against Kentucky.||7||22-12|
|Steven Crowl finished with 21 points and nine rebounds in Wednesday's 89-85 win over IIllinois State. The Badgers' next game is Monday at Purdue.||--||25-8|
|Braden Norris scored 18 points and finished with nine assists in a 69-58 victory at Vanderbilt on Dec. 10. The Ramblers are currently on a COVID pause.||--||25-8|