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Game Preview and Open Thread - Auburn vs Arkansas

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Is this the most important game for Auburn basketball in recent memory?

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

What we have in today’s game against Arkansas is a pretty simple cause and effect.

Win, and Auburn basketball will be ranked for the first time in fifteen years.

Lose, and they may still be ranked for the first time in fifteen years after beating a ranked Tennessee team on the road.

However, if you win, you guarantee that Auburn will be in the Top 25 when the polls come out in a couple days.

Auburn’s last appearance in the Top 25 came when they were ranked #24 in the poll released on January 21, 2003. That week, the Tigers lost to Kentucky and Georgia, and subsequently fell out of the rankings in their next edition on January 28th, NEVER TO BE HEARD FROM AGAIN.

If Auburn can beat Arkansas and enter the Top 25 on Monday, it will have been a span of 5,461 days since the last time that Auburn had a number next to its name.

14 years, 11 months, and 13 days to be exact.

But it starts against the Hogs tonight at Auburn Arena.

Arkansas’ has been one of the best teams in the SEC so far this season, ranked 22nd in the country right now, and sitting at 11-3 overall. The Razorbacks are one of the nation’s most offensively-gifted teams, averaging just over 89 points per game, good for eighth in the country in that regard.

When the Pigs score, they win. In their 11 victories, they’ve scored over 80 points each time, with the lowest output coming in an 83-75 win over Fresno State early on. They’ve scored over 90 points nine times.

The only real blemish on their resume is a head-scratching 91-65 defeat against Houston at the start of December, and in their most recent outing, the Hogs fell at Mississippi State 78-75 in Starkville.

They don’t play nearly as well away from Fayetteville and the frenzied hive that is Bud Walton Arena. Auburn Arena should be absolutely stark-raving mad tonight, and that’ll help out the Tigers for sure.

In terms of individual players that Auburn will have to watch out for, it all starts with Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon, a pair of 6’3 senior guards who combine to score 36 points per game for Mike Anderson. The only other guys that average double figures for the Hogs are freshman forward Daniel Gafford (12.3 ppg), who’s the tree in the middle at 6’11, and Anton Beard (11.7 ppg), another senior guard. With the experience of that backcourt, Arkansas will be better prepared to handle what should be a raucous atmosphere on the Plains.

That backcourt will do two things — hit threes (Arkansas is 19th nationally in three-point percentage) and protect the ball (12th nationally in turnovers). The Hogs defense isn’t particularly elite, allowing 75 points per game, and they’re pretty much in the middle of the pack in all other categories.

So, this is the game that could push Auburn into the rankings for the first time in fifteen years, and if the Tigers can get through it, they may have a special run in them with a much lighter schedule following tonight’s tilt. You best tune in.

HOW TO WATCH AND LISTEN - Auburn vs Arkansas - 5 pm CST - Auburn, AL

TV: ESPNU

Radio: Auburn Sports Network