After a split week with the Tigers beating Kentucky at home and falling on the road to South Carolina, we saw a bit of a regression to the early portion of the SEC schedule’s play. Auburn had two pretty poor first halves (one of those still resulted in a six-point lead against Kentucky at the half), and had to fight in the second half of games to hold onto a slim lead or erase a huge deficit.
The Tigers started 1-16 from the floor against Kentucky and led 39-33 at the break before winning by ten in the end, but the slow start was a premonition for Saturday’s matchup in Columbia. The Tigers fell behind by 26 and the deficit was just too much to mount a comeback as they lost to the Gamecocks by nine.
To make matters worse, Anfernee McLemore’s ankle injury will sideline him for the rest of the season, and the best shot-blocker in the SEC now has to watch from the bench as Bruce Pearl figures out what to do without him.
That said, look at who else lost this past week.
#3 Villanova lost at Providence.
#4 Xavier got blown at by Villanova.
#5 Cincinnati lost last night against Wichita State.
#6 Purdue lost to Wisconsin in the midweek.
#7 Texas Tech lost at Baylor.
#8 Ohio State lost at Michigan.
Add into the fact that Michigan State trailed by 27 to Northwestern and came back and won, and the top ten nearly had a cataclysmic week. #11 Clemson also dropped a game, and so you’d imagine that the drop in the polls wouldn’t be too terrible.
And you’d be right. A two spot drop isn’t so bad with what transpired on the court on Saturday. Auburn dropped back below Kansas and North Carolina, and Duke jumped up from 12th to 5th in the rankings.
As far as the SEC goes, Auburn still has an actual two-game lead over Tennessee with three games to play. Add in the tiebreaker, and it’s basically a three-game lead. Auburn’s three games up on Florida, Alabama, Missouri, and Arkansas. Those four teams are technically still alive for the regular season conference title, but the chances are slim and we’re going to lose a couple of these teams before the coming weekend. Auburn can clinch the SEC with two wins, but if they get some help in the form of losses by others, one win might be able to do the job.
Huge, huge, huge game against Alabama on Wednesday night! 7:30 pm CST tipoff for a game that could very well be the most important that Auburn will play over these next two weeks. War Eagle!