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#17 Auburn at Tennessee Game Preview and Open Thread

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Auburn heads to Knoxville for the Regular Season Finale

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

Date: Saturday March 7th

Opponent: Tennessee Volunteers

Location: Thompson-Boling Arena - Knoxville, Tennessee

Time: 11AM

Network: ESPN2, Auburn Radio Network

Auburn will play their first game in Knoxville since the SEC opener back in the 2017-2018 season. Auburn won their first game in Knoxville in about 20 years that night and it was the start of their run through the SEC that season on their way to a SEC Regular Season Championship.

It’s hard to believe this is the last game of the regular season but here we are. Auburn finishes the regular season against a team they’ve had great success against over the past 3 seasons including taking not 1 but 2 banners away from last season. There’s a lot on the line for both teams in this game.

Seeding Scenarios

Auburn’s loss to Texas A&M not only hurt for losing the home winning streak, but it complicated their seeding in the SEC Tournament. While the Tigers have locked up a double bye in next week’s SEC Tournament, whether they are a 2, 3 or 4 seed is to be decided Saturday.

For Auburn to be a 2 seed: Auburn needs to win and for Kentucky to beat Florida. Even if LSU were to win in this scenario, Auburn owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over LSU.

For Auburn to be a 3 seed: An Auburn win would lock up at least the 3 seed. This would also mean that Florida beat Kentucky. If Auburn loses, they would need Georgia to upset LSU in Baton Rouge to stay at the 3 spot.

For Auburn to be a 4 seed: Auburn loses and LSU beats Georgia. It wouldn’t matter what Florida does as the Gators own the tiebreaker over Auburn.

Being a 2 or 3 seed puts you in the night session and on the other side of the bracket from Kentucky, although I would personally love to see that matchup one more time on a neutral floor.

Recapping the First Game

Tennessee dominated the first 25 minutes of the game in Auburn 2 weeks ago. With 14:35 to go, Tennessee led 54-37. The Tigers would go on an 18-0 run to take the lead. The teams would go back and forth until Devan Cambridge’s 3 with under 2 minutes put Auburn up for good. Auburn would finish the game on a 36-12 run to defeat the Vols 73-66.

For Tennessee, Jordan Bowden had an outstanding performance scoring 28 points along with 6 assists. Santiago Vescovi had 10 points and Yves Pons had 7 points and 10 rebounds. Auburn held star forward John Fulkerson to 6 points.

For Auburn, Samir Doughty led the Tigers with 22 points while Austin Wiley and Devan Cambridge each had 9 points. J’Von McCormick had 8 points and 5 steals while this was the breakout game for Jaylin Williams. He had 8 points and 3 steals and 2 highlight-reel dunks.

Keys for Tennessee

Tennessee desperately needs to win this game as they fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives. They probably need to win a couple next week too but getting 2 signature wins this week would huge for the Vols chances. Tennessee comes into this game off a stunning comeback win over Kentucky in Rupp Arena. The Vols did what Auburn did to them 2 weeks ago, coming back from double digits down in the 2nd half to win 81-73.

John Fulkerson had a season high 27 points and 6 rebounds on Tuesday night and he will more of a factor on offense for Tennessee in this one. Along with Fulkerson, Jordan Bowden lead the team averaging 13.6 PPG. Bowden plays his final home game for the Volunteers Saturday.

Keys for Auburn

Auburn didn’t have Isaac Okoro for the first game 2 weeks ago. They will in this contest. Okoro looked much better in the 2nd half against Texas A&M as he scored 13 of his 15 points in the 2nd half. Getting Okoro back to full strength is critical for Auburn’s success in March. Samir Doughty had 25 points in his final game in Auburn Arena and the Tigers need another big game from him to have a chance.

Prediction

There’s a ton at stake in this one and while for NCAA Tournament purposes Tennessee needs this one more than Auburn, the Tigers need some positive momentum going into the SEC Tournament. Auburn has lost 4 of 6 games since Okoro’s hamstring injury sidelined him for 3 games. The Tigers also finally fell in a close game late, which was bound to happen considering how many close games Auburn has won this year. That’s the DNA of this year’s team, they’re going to play close games and one or two plays here and there will decide the outcome of these games. I want to pick Auburn, I really do but I know Tennessee will be highly motivated and they’re ready to break the losing streak to Auburn. I think they’ll do that.

Tennessee 77 Auburn 72