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First Thoughts on Auburn's Basketball Schedule

Who Are We Playing in Year One?

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn's Mens' Basketball schedule is out and final and seems . . . manageable.

1/07/14 vs. West Alabama # Auburn, Ala. 8:30 p.m. CT
11/14/14 vs. Milwaukee Auburn, Ala. TBA
11/18/14 at Colorado TV Boulder, Colo. 12:00 a.m. CT
11/21/14 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Auburn, Ala. 7:00 p.m. CT
MGM Grand Main Event
11/24/14 vs. Tulsa TV Las Vegas, Nev. 10:00 p.m. CT
11/26/14 vs. Oklahoma State or Oregon State TV Las Vegas, Nev. TBA
12/03/14 at Texas Tech TV Lubbock, Texas 8:00 p.m. CT
12/05/14 vs. Coastal Carolina Auburn, Ala. 7:00 p.m. CT
12/14/14 at Clemson Clemson, S.C. TBA
12/17/14 vs. Winthrop Auburn, Ala. 8:00 p.m. CT
12/20/14 vs. Xavier Auburn, Ala. 7:00 p.m. CT
12/23/14 vs. Texas Southern Auburn, Ala. 7:00 p.m. CT
12/29/14 vs. Middle Tennessee State Auburn, Ala. 7:00 p.m. CT
01/03/15 vs. North Alabama Auburn, Ala. 4:00 p.m. CT
01/06/15 at Vanderbilt * TV Nashville, Tenn. 8:00 p.m. CT
01/10/15 vs. Missouri * TV Auburn, Ala. TBA
01/15/15 at Florida * TV Gainesville, Fla. 6:00 p.m. CT
01/17/15 vs. South Carolina * TV Auburn, Ala. TBA
01/21/15 vs. Mississippi State * TV Auburn, Ala. 8:00 p.m. CT
01/24/15 at Alabama * TV Tuscaloosa, Ala. TBA
01/27/15 vs. Texas A&M * TV Auburn, Ala. 8:00 p.m. CT
01/31/15 at Tennessee * TV Knoxville, Tenn. 11:00 a.m. CT
02/05/15 at LSU * TV Baton Rouge, La. 6:00 p.m. CT
02/07/15 vs. Ole Miss * TV Auburn, Ala. TBA
02/10/15 vs. Arkansas * TV Auburn, Ala. 8:00 p.m. CT
02/14/15 at Georgia * TV Athens, Ga. TBA
02/17/15 vs. Alabama * TV Auburn, Ala. 8:00 p.m. CT
02/21/15 at Kentucky * TV Lexington, Ky. 5:00 p.m. CT
02/24/15 vs. LSU * TV Auburn, Ala. 6:00 p.m. CT
02/28/15 at Texas A&M * TV College Station, Texas TBA
03/03/15 at Missouri * TV Columbia, Mo. 8:00 p.m. CT
03/07/15 vs. Georgia * TV Auburn, Ala. TBA

The nonconference schedule is the toughest Auburn's had since the 2000-01 campagin of Chris Porter's senior year.  There are no unbeatable monsters on the noncon schedule, but there are few creampuffs.  Auburn's first four opponents were in the NCAA tournament last year: Horizon Conference champ Milwaukee, Colorado, Sun Belt champion Louisiana Lafayette, and Conference USA champ, Tulsa.  While each of these teams was in the tournament, only one (Colorado) had a top-50 RPI.  Auburn may face a fifth straight tournament team with traditional power Oklahoma State or may play a respectable Oregon State.  A trip to Lubbock to play Texas Tech is followed by a visit from another tournament team, Big South champion Coastal Carolina.  Auburn then travels to Clemson.  At this point, we're eight games into the schedule and all our opponents either (1) played in the NCAA tournament last year, (2) belong to a power conference, or (3) both.  Auburn returns home for a five game homestand highlighted by a visit from traditional power Xavier on December 20.  In short, Auburn plays thirteen nonconference games and nine of those thirteen either (1) made the tournament last year, (2) belong to a power conference, or (3) both.  This is way different than our usual nonconference slate of average to subpar teams in the lower ranks of small conferences.  I haven't had a chance yet to see what these teams are bringing back but given our transfers and the excitement for Bruce Pearl, it feels like a schedule we can navigate.  Auburn looks to be the favorite in six of their seven home games.  The could also pick up wins in at least 2-3 games on the road.  If we come out of this slate with 8-9 wins, we'll be prepared for conference play and in decent position for postseason consideration.  There aren't many opportunities for "bad losses" in nonconference play.

Auburn caught some breaks in the conference schedule (which we'll need after that brutal nonconference affair).  Auburn plays all three SEC teams that made the NCAA tournament last year (Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee) on the road but only has to play them one time each.  That leaves fifteen SEC games against teams in our weight class and nine of those games will be at home in what promises to be a raucous Auburn Arena.

SEC basketball (outside of Florida and Kentucky) is an unpredictable affair.  You want to hold court at home.  Auburn's Arena could become a tremendous home court advantage.  It is significantly smaller than Beard Eaves but all 9,121 seats hang over the court.  Per Auburn:

The furthest seat in Auburn Arena is just 43 feet away from the court. A full two-thirds of the seats in the facility are less than 27 feet in elevation from courtside.

The students are set up first come first serve for 1500 seats on three sides of the lowest bowl.  I've been in there in games with over 4,000-5,000 fans and it gets loud.  Other than the Martin Aquatic center which I understand to be a very fast pool, the Auburn Arena is probably the best designed venue Auburn has.  For those who haven't been to a game there yet, plan on doing so this year.  Single game tickets go on sale October 6.

Bruce is doing everything he can to sell out the Arena this year.  He has improved relationships with the alumni, the community, and the students.  At Tennessee, his teams sold out Thompson-Boling Arena which holds over 21,000 fans.  That, in part, explains Pearl's amazing record in home games:

Again, without looking at what these teams have lost, just based on thirty years of watching Auburn basketball, this feels like a season in which Auburn could win at least 8-11 conference games given our favorable home schedule.  This would give Auburn a regular season record of 16-15 on the low end ranging up to 20-11 if things go well.

My personal expectations are top half of conference (4th-7th) and an NIT berth.  Anything better would be wonderful and anything worse be . . . no worse than what we're used to.  If nothing else, it's nice to have hope again.