Who: Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers at Auburn Tigers
Where: Auburn Arena, Auburn, AL
When: 9pm CST
How to Watch: The game will be on ESPNU, you can also check out the Gametracker on Auburn's official site.
How to Listen: On the Auburn website, here.
I went to every Auburn home basketball game growing up. It was the mid to late 1980s and Auburn was going to the NCAA tournament every year back then. Then, as now, Auburn would bring in these directional schools or branch campuses in the preseason. You got used to the idea that these games would be easy Auburn wins. One year, Auburn brought in another one of these cupcakes, the University of Nevada Las Vegas. That's right, Jerry Tarkanian and the Runnin' Rebs of UNLV came to Beard Eaves. The beating the Tigers received that night was . . . shameful.
Tonight, Auburn welcomes in another branch campus that has historically played good basketball, Wisconsin-Milwaukee (click here for appropriate Milwaukee themed preview music). UWM has been the NCAA Tournament three times since Auburn last went in 2003. The first appearance was under Bruce Pearl (Who Made Milwaukee Famous) and the second two have been under his ten year replacement, Rob Jeter. Before you ask, yes, Rob Jeter is related to . . . Green Bay Packers great Bob Jeter. Last year, UWM was in the NCAA tournament as a 15th seed automatic qualifier after winning the Horizon League tournament. Despite their NCAA tournament appearance, the computers thought Auburn was better than UWM last year. Their Sagarin Rating ranked them 164th in the country compared to Auburn's 107.
This year, UWM is expected to drop off a little but not much, finishing 5th or 6th in the Horizon League. Of course, last year they were picked last in the Horizon League so UWM is used to exceeding expectations. They are ineligible for postseason play due to low APR scores. The team views this regular season as a "30 game tournament." Their best returning center is a 6'8" all-conference caliber center, Matt Tiby. UWM also has two incoming 6'9" freshmen they can play down low, the Prahl twins. So Auburn fans curious how our undersized lineup will perform against a talented big man won't have long to wait to find out. The Panthers also bring back Steve McWhorter and welcome Akeem Springs from Northern Illinois, both of whom average double digits in points last year. They're All Alright.
Milwaukee's playing style borrows a lot from Jeter's mentor, Bo Ryan, head coach at Wisconsin Wisconsin. Look for an offense that shows a lot of movement (video of Wisconsin's offense in this link) on and off the ball, uses off the ball screens, works the clock, tries to get players cutting free to the basket, and will allow all five players to shoot from any spot on the court. UWM is going to try to slow the game down. Auburn wants to run. It should be a great game to watch.
Now, Auburn fans, I know it's been a long time since we've had anything on the floor to be excited about. We need to look like this tonight:
Look for Auburn to get the Pearl era started on the right foot. KT Harrell and Antoine Mason will announce Milwaukee Here I Come and go for fifteen plus each. My Cousin in Milwaukee assures me we have nothing to fear. Auburn 75 UWM 58.