It's been a roller coaster season for the Tigers—perhaps more like a roller coaster that starts really high up and then slopes down, then slightly up again at times...but mostly down.
However you want to describe the season, it all comes to a close today as Auburn (11-18, 5-12 SEC) looks for some kind of boost against Mississippi State (13-16, 6-11 SEC) before the SEC Tournament begins next week.
On Tuesday night, the Tigers played an inspired first half against Texas A&M before watching their lead slip away as the Aggies ran away with the game in the second half. It's a testament to the entire season, really—moving pieces here and there for flashes of success, but never a complete team. Still, despite the odds, this team has fought all season. They've never showed a lack of heart, which is all you can ask for after such a snake-bitten year.
Auburn can put a silver lining on the regular season, though, with a win today over the Bulldogs of Mississippi State, but the Tigers will have to put a complete game together to do so. Comparatively, Texas A&M is arguably a much better opponent than Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs won't have to try very hard to win if Auburn finds a way to blow another first-half lead. The trouble against A&M was rebounding. Auburn was out-rebounded at an embarrassing rate Tuesday night—a point of focus that Bruce Pearl has no doubt emphasized at practice this week.
It's Senior Day for Mississippi State, who suffered an 86-78 loss to in-state rival Ole Miss on Wednesday night in a game where Stefan Moody (Ole Miss) scored a career-high 43 points. Mississippi State has beaten some good teams this season, but despite some big playmakers, the Bulldogs should be a good matchup for the Tigers. Obviously, senior forward Gavin Ware has been State's rock all season and leads the team in scoring with 16 points per game, so Auburn will have to find a way to contain him without fouling. Senior and freshman guards Craig Sword and Quinndary Weatherspoon have contributed all season as well with 12.9 and 12.1 points per game, respectively.
Mississippi State is not a hot team when it comes to three point shooting, but Auburn will need to keep a tight lid on the Bulldogs to prevent those long, lopsided scoring runs that have plagued the Tigers' success all season. The good news is that ever since Kareem Canty's dismissal from the team, the remaining (and healthy) players on this roster have found a new and perhaps improved team chemistry on the court (despite the lack of a consistent 40 minutes of play every game). Today is the last chance before the SEC Tourney to make the most of that chemistry before some very important seniors move on from the program. Here's hoping for a full game's worth of that first half we witnessed against A&M earlier this week.
War Damn Eagle.
How to Watch:
Auburn vs. Mississippi State
When: 1:30 PM CT
Watch: SEC Network
Listen: Auburn IMG Network
Live Tweets: @CollegeandMag, @AuburnMBB, @Clintau24 (AU Jungle), @jacobvarner14 (AU Jungle), @bobby_barkley, and by special request, @runyogasurf (although she has kindly expressed that her tweets will certainly be NSFW depending on how the game is going...War Eagle at your own risk)
Radio Affiliates: 100.5 FM (Birmingham), 94.3 FM (Auburn), 1230 AM (Huntsville), 106.5 FM (Mobile), 92.3 FM (Montgomery)