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Game Preview and Open Thread - Auburn @ South Carolina

The Tigers can take another step toward a championship with a road win today.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

As Auburn’s stretch run gets shorter and shorter, the magic number for a regular season SEC Championship gets smaller and smaller. With the Tigers sitting at 11-2 in the league, two games ahead of Tennessee (with the tiebreaker to boot), and three games ahead of Alabama, Florida, and Missouri, it won’t take much to get that title.

With five games left to play, Auburn can win three and erase all doubt, no matter what happens behind them. If the Tigers can win two games, it would take monumental and heroic efforts from the chasers to catch them. But with the way that Auburn’s played all year long, you can bet that they’re trying for more than that.

In the past couple of days, the Tigers have stayed consistent while the rest of the country has faltered. Purdue’s lost three straight, and that’s put Auburn firmly on the 1-seed line in the eyes of many of the nation’s top men.

With the schedule consisting of Florida and Arkansas on the road, and Alabama at home, Auburn needs to steal at least one of those to feel pretty good about themselves. In addition, they need to sweep a home and away series with South Carolina, starting today.

This afternoon, Auburn can start that process at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina against a reeling Gamecock team.

Since the Saturday of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Auburn’s 5-1. In that same time, South Carolina’s 0-6. That streak includes four blowout losses in a row @ Texas A&M, @ Arkansas, vs Florida, and @ Tennessee. Now, that’s a rough stretch for anyone, but the Gamecocks have dropped those four by an average of 19 points per game. They haven’t looked great.

As a team, the Gamecocks do two things well — rebound on offense and get to the foul line, but otherwise, they don’t have a statistic that sticks out. They’re last in shooting percentage and next-to-last in scoring in the SEC. They’ll slow the game down, but teams have had really good shooting success against South Carolina in league play. Despite grinding the game to a halt, their defense ranks ninth in the conference in terms of points allowed.

Auburn will need to watch out for Chris Silva (14.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Frank Booker (11.6 ppg), who are the only guys averaging double-digits on the team. Silva’s going to give the Tigers trouble with his 6’9 frame, but he’s had trouble staying on the floor all year long. Hes gotten at least four fouls in 13 games, and hasn’t played more than 30 minutes in over a month. The Gamecocks absolutely need a huge game from him today, but if he’s quickly saddled with a couple fouls, the biggest threat to Auburn’s game heads to the bench.

What Auburn will need to do today is go in and forget about Alabama on Wednesday, remembering that they’ve got South Carolina this afternoon. In this SEC, anyone can lose, and we’ve seen that not just around the conference, but around the country this week. Today’s a huge opportunity to get one of the easier wins left on the schedule and move a step closer to that SEC Championship. If you mess it up today, then it becomes imperative that you win a tough road game and the pressure starts to mount.

HOW TO WATCH AND LISTEN - Auburn @ South Carolina - 2:30 pm CST - Columbia, SC

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Auburn Sports Network