Auburn's roster returns, but Bruce Pearl's tenuous future hangs over Tigers

We continue our recruit and return series with Auburn, whose season ended Sunday with a loss to Clemson. Here's what next season could hold.

Possible 2018-19 starting five:

G: Jared Harper

G: Bryce Brown

G: Desean Murray

F: Mustapha Heron

F: Anfernee McLemore

Who is lost: That, like everything else, is a significant question for the program, but it’s not one we can answer right now about a team steeped in controversy. Mustapha Heron could choose to turn pro. Other players could decide to stay or flee if the FBI scandal costs Bruce Pearl his job. Stay tuned.

Who is added: Everything with Auburn is tentative right now. Pearl’s tenuous position following the arrest of former assistant Chuck Person and the season-long suspensions of Austin Wiley (8.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG) and Danjel Purifoy (11.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG), all in connection with the massive FBI probe that has rocked college basketball, could dictate the difference between an Auburn team that returns every key piece and chases a national title in 2018-19 and one that blows up this offseason, loses Pearl and demands a complete reconstruction. E.J. Montgomery, a top-20 recruit in the 2018 class, decommitted after Person’s arrest in September. The futures of Purifoy and Wiley remain unclear. But they will both be excellent additions if they return in 2018-19. Plus, Anfernee McLemore, who suffered serious leg and ankle injuries last month, is expected to recover within the next six months after surgery.

What it means for next season: Without Wiley and Purifoy, Auburn still managed to shock the country and win the SEC title. And every player on this roster – plus, the addition of two talented players whose collective eligibility could be restored – might return in 2018-19. And if this group comes back for another season, the Tigers will enter the year as a serious threat to win the national championship. But it just feels far too early to make any assumptions about the makeup of this roster. Will everyone come back? Will Pearl be the coach in 2018-19? Will McLemore return as the same defensive threat he was before he suffered the ankle and leg injuries that required surgery? We’ll see. Either way, this is the most intriguing team to watch this offseason.

Trending: Neutral, for all the reasons mentioned above. This team will certainly trend up if the bulk of this SEC championship roster comes back. No prognosticator can predict, however, the state of Auburn basketball in 2018-19 without knowing what’s next in the FBI investigation.