This week, Auburn's KT Harrell—the SEC's leading scorer—was named Second Team All SEC.
That didn't sit well with most Auburn fans, and tonight, they'll be rooting for him to drop 20+ on a team that all but embarrassed the Tigers at home earlier this season with some lights-out shooting on the way to a 78-71 victory.
Bruce Pearl's 13th-seeded Tigers (12-19, 4-14 SEC) enter the SEC Tournament looking for some payback against the 12th-seeded Bulldogs (13-18, 6-12 SEC), and with Antoine Mason back on the roster and a hungry KT Harrell, they just might get it. While Auburn's woes have piled on late in the regular season, Mississippi State hasn't exactly had it easy, either. The Bulldogs have lost five of their last six remaining regular-season SEC games—the one win coming against the team that Auburn couldn't beat last week in Missouri. Both teams will be looking for a way to erase a bitter stretch of bad luck in SEC play, but arguably, Auburn has more to play for.
Antoine Mason will not necessarily have to start to make an impact for the Tigers. He played against Georgia in Athens as a bench player and delivered a small, yet solid contribution (including a 100% free-throw effort) for his team as they defeated the Bulldogs 69-68. In fact, Pearl joked in the locker room afterwards that he would consider Mason a bench player more often. Wherever Mason starts tonight, rest assured his contributions will be much needed. Hopefully he'll be fresh after a very emotionally intense few weeks with the passing of his father, Anthony Mason.
It's no secret that Auburn needs Cinmeon Bowers to show up and play against a team likely to get under his skin. For the most part this season, despite finding ways to achieve an unholy amount of double-doubles, Bowers has demonstrated less-than-ideal decision making on the court. The big man for Auburn absolutely has to deliver for the Tigers tonight. Without a solid rebounding presence at both ends of the court, Mississippi State is sure to score in transition and on second attempts.
Auburn's bench will also face a tough test. With the loss of Tahj Shamsid-Deen earlier this year, it's been difficult to nail down an adequate replacement that can play smart offense as well as diligent defense. Mason will certainly add some depth, but Pearl will need K.C. Ross-Miller and Malcolm Canada to make smart decisions and fire up Auburn's defense to prevent easy scoring in transition for the Bulldogs.
We've said it all season, but it's business as usual for the Tigers. The only added caveat? Tonight, it's truly "win, or go home." War Damn Eagle.
Auburn vs. Mississippi State
When: 6:00 PM CT
Watch: SEC Network
Stream: WatchESPN / ESPN3
Listen: Auburn IMG Network