Auburn plays at rival Alabama tomorrow night at 6 pm CST, with a 14-game winning streak, the only perfect SEC record, and a No. 17 ranking on the line. Auburn’s got the nation’s longest unbeaten streak after West Virginia lost over the weekend, and now the Tigers are poised to extend it against an Alabama team that’s not great at defending the three (hello, Bryce Brown), and will be without Donta Hall on the inside.
As for the nation, it’s starting to take notice of the Tigers.
Jerry Palm has Auburn as a 2-seed in his latest projection. That would be out of control if Bruce Pearl took Auburn from zero postseason to a 2-seed just like that.
Latest bracket...Big 12 in charge at the top https://t.co/XSS44aMzPo— Jerry Palm (@jppalmCBS) January 15, 2018
Palm’s the biggest supporter of the Tigers at this point when it comes to the bracketology, but others have the Tigers on the upper quadrant of their brackets as well.
The Sporting News has Auburn as a 4-seed along with Kentucky, which is where Joe Lunardi’s got the Tigers as well.
Will be updating twice each week (Monday & Thursday) until Championship Week. NCAAM Bracketology - ESPN https://t.co/lHV6Xl2f7F— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) January 15, 2018
And our very own SB Nation bracketologists have Auburn as a 3-seed, again the highest placing team out of the SEC.
If the NCAA tournament started today .....— SB Nation CBB (@SBNationCBB) January 16, 2018
No. 1 seeds: Villanova, Purdue, Kansas, West Virginia
No. 2 seeds: Duke, Virginia, Oklahoma and ... Clemson?https://t.co/YeQiEzvPxf
What’s led to this renaissance? Well, Auburn’s putting the ball in the hoop, duh. And preventing other teams from doing the same.
Advanced stats after each team has played 4 or more SEC games via KenPom. H/T @ksu_FAN. Auburn with the biggest rise of the week in both KP and RPI.— Nicholas Carr (@NicholasCarr) January 15, 2018
s/o @msubbaiah1 for the graphics added this week. pic.twitter.com/2ZCQZt6xjx
Gotta keep it going though, and that begins tomorrow in Tuscaloosa. It may not be the toughest game on paper (look at the above stats) as Bama doesn’t rebound particularly well, and fouls a ton (not great if you’re playing the best foul-shooting team in the league), but you know that Coleman Coliseum’s going to be loud and raucous.
With Donta Hall out, it’s going to be the Colin Sexton show, and Bruce isn’t wasting any time putting his best guy out to defend the Tide freshman when it matters.
If you watch the full video with Bruce Pearl in the above link, he knows exactly how talented Alabama is (calls them the most talented team we’ve played all season), because he recruited pretty much every guy on that team. However, in Bama’s losses this year (not counting the Minnesota game because that was a super outlier of a scenario), Sexton’s not exactly the indicator of success for the Tide. Here are his totals in their five other losses:
UCF: 7 points
Arizona: 30 points
Texas: 8 points
Vanderbilt: 24 points
Georgia: 23 points
There are basically two strategies here -- take Sexton out of the game, or make him their only scorer. Bama’s bench isn’t great, and so if you take away one of their volume scoring starters, they’ll be in real trouble. Let’s see if Bruce Pearl can concoct the defense to do that tomorrow night.