Auburn has played some excellent basketball teams this season, but nothing compares to the game Saturday at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. The Tigers will take on the undefeated, #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats at 6pm Central.
The Tigers are coming off a tough loss at the hands of rival Alabama. They're playing shorthanded without a true center and with one of the team's best defensive players out for the season due to shoulder issues. The Wilcats, meanwhile, have their "platoon system" of future NBA players. Auburn has a few players on its roster who could make it in the NBA, but nowhere near the talent that Kentucky has.
Then there's the matter of a certain individual who will be sitting over on Kentucky's bench in an assistant coaching position. I will not name names. He is persona non grata as far as most Tiger fans are concerned. The roster attrition of the past few seasons can be placed at his feet.
However, he did still recruit a number of these players on the Auburn basketball team. If you can muster up one small bit of appreciation for that, then I beg of you to do so. These players that we love so much - KT Harrell, Tahj Shamsid-Dean, Jordon Granger, just to name a few - and who have played their heart out for Bruce Pearl's first team are on the Plains because that other man recruited them. For that I, at least, say thank you.
In order for the Tigers to have even a remote chance in this game, it will require every single player at the top of their game. Antoine Mason and KT Harrell were shooting lights out against Alabama, but Cinmeon Bowers had a very off game in his ball handling and shooting, and no one else really stepped up to help contribute when Auburn needed points the most.
Even more so, the defensive play will have to be above and beyond what the Tigers have shown this season. That is going to be extremely hard without Tahj Shamsid-Deen. Bowers will have to stay out of foul trouble while bearing the brunt of the defense under the basket. Now would be a great time for Trayvon Reed to step up in a meaningful way.
The Wildcats are 26-0 (13-0, SEC), and are chasing the dream of the first undefeated season in men's college basketball since Bobby Knight's 1976 Indiana Hoosiers finished 32-0. They are (at last check) a 26 point favorite over the Tigers, their largest spread to date in conference play.
Absolutely no one is giving the Tigers a chance in this one. Most believe this will be a slaughter. Just a road bump on the way to the SEC tournament and the Big Dance for Kentucky.
I guess that means there's only one thing left to do.
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War Damn Eagle.
How to Watch, Stream, Listen
Time: 7pm EST / 6pm CDT
Stream: WatchESPN / ESPN 3
Listen: Auburn IMG Network