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Game Preview and Open Thread - Auburn @ Florida

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SEC Championship coming tonight?

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

Now that we’re down to what could be the final game needed to attain a certain goal, tell me if you would’ve believed this before the season started.

Auburn can win the SEC regular season championship tonight if they beat Florida.

I repeat. Auburn can win the SEC regular season championship tonight if they beat Florida.

It’s something that we never could’ve dreamed would happen before the year started, what with the departure of Chuck Person and the ineligibility of Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy. Now, the Tigers can do the ultimate unthinkable and win a conference title, which would give them the 1-seed at the tournament in St. Louis.

In fact, Auburn’s got two bites at that apple today. If Tennessee loses to Ole Miss when they play this afternoon, the Tigers may be SEC champs before taking the floor in Gainesville.

Although, it would be a lot of fun to win it outright against the Gators on their home hardwood.

The Tigers are coming off of an emotional win at home over Alabama, a 90-71 drubbing that saw Auburn throwing up alley-oops and wildly long threes, taking revenge over the Tide for that game back in January.

The Gators, meanwhile, are in a bit of a freefall. They’ve lost three straight, including two games to Georgia and Vanderbilt before falling to Tennessee on Wednesday night. Florida’s played two straight games on the road, but Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center should be rocking tonight with the late tipoff against the league’s best team.

Florida’s been a bit unfortunate, in that they lost their key big man for this year as well. John Egbunu endured a knee injury last season that still hasn’t healed, and the Gators certainly miss his 6’11 presence in the paint. As for the rest of the team, they’ve been hot and cold.

The Gators boast one of the best point guards in the SEC in Chris Chiozza, who’s the only guy on Jared Harper’s level in terms of assists, with 6.0 per game. He’ll run the show, dishing the ball to Jalen Hudson (14.8 ppg), Egor Koulechov (13.9 ppg), Kevaughn Allen (10.8 ppg), and Keith Stone (8.7 ppg). Kevarrius Hayes also chips in 5.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg.

Other than that, the Gators don’t have much depth. It’s a six-man rotation that’ll do much of the damage, but Auburn may be in the same boat. With Anfernee McLemore obviously gone for the rest of the season, the Tigers are down a man, and the question about Mustapha Heron’s stomach virus still lingers. He was able to keep some food down and go through a light practice, but he probably won’t be able to give a full effort tonight.

However, Auburn dealt with having just seven scholarship players pretty well on Wednesday. Malik Dunbar and Horace Spencer played wonderfully to start, and even Pat Keim came in to D up Collin Sexton. Chuma Okeke had his best game of the season, and if Bruce Pearl unleashes him like he did against Bama, he could provide size that the Gators won’t have an answer for.

Stone and Hayes run at 6’8 and 6’9, but the rest of the heavy-hitters are guard-sized. 6’5, 6’5, 6’2, 6’0. Auburn won’t have to deal with the length of an Alabama and Kentucky tonight, and this will be a game of similarly-sized teams. The difference is that Auburn wants to play up-tempo and Florida wants to slow it down. Auburn can use its rebounding advantage to get some second chances over the Gators (13th SEC in total rebounds), and if the threes are falling (Florida 13th in the SEC in 3-pt % defense), the Tigers could have a good time tonight.

Let’s go win the SEC Championship. War Eagle!

HOW TO WATCH AND LISTEN - Auburn @ Florida - 7:30 pm CST - Gainesville, FL

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Auburn Sports Network