Like the pesky flu bug, college basketball had itself a little epidemic this past week in the form of the upset bug. #4 Duke, #7 Kansas, and #9 Arizona all lost to far inferior teams and all deservedly dropped in the rankings. With the Auburn Tigers ranked #11, and deftly avoiding the vapors going around, they were in prime position to hop into the top ten for the first time in 18 years (almost to the day), and they took advantage with two wins over Ole Miss on the road and Vanderbilt at home.
AP POLL ALERT: Villanova, Virginia, Purdue top AP Top 25 for fourth straight week; Duke slides to No. 9 after loss to St. John's. Lots of changes in poll with losses, see it all here: https://t.co/eT6s6KVsmd pic.twitter.com/GGussb2CGr— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) February 5, 2018
Auburn is now EIGHTH in the AP Poll, ahead of Duke and Kansas. You read that right.
With the way that the expert bracketologists are pumping the Tigers, Auburn’s starting to get some actual, real-life love from the pollsters and talking heads. You may look at the wins and say “Oh, it’s Ole Miss. Oh, it’s just Vanderbilt.” Well, Duke was saying “It’s just St. John’s” before walking into the Garden on Saturday and they couldn’t get it done. Auburn just isn’t losing, and eventually that counts for a lot.
The Tigers are 21-2, 9-1 in the SEC, and two games clear of Tennessee, against whom they even hold the tiebreaker. That essentially adds up to a three-game lead in the conference. With each passing win, Auburn’s chances of winning the regular season conference championship outright ticks up a few percentage points. If the Tigers get to 15-3, they automatically win. If they end up 14-4, Tennessee has to run the table the rest of the way to get that 1-seed in St. Louis. If Auburn just goes 4-4 the rest of the way, a 13-5 final SEC record still means that the Vols have to go 7-1 down the stretch to win the conference. Auburn’s schedule gets tougher moving forward, starting on Wednesday with a suddenly-hot Texas A&M team, but Tennessee still has to play at Kentucky and at Alabama this week. If they get through that at 2-0, I’d be astonished.
Point being, the Tigers don’t have to continue their torrid pace to win a completely unexpected conference championship. They’ve done so well up to this point, that they can afford an errant loss (or three). As long as the bottom doesn’t completely fall out, Auburn’s in a great position.
We’ll look more at the bracketology aspect of this tomorrow, and let you know where the Tigers are being sent in the NCAA Tournament. The fact that a bid is all but wrapped up at this point is outstanding. War Eagle!