There have been two very, seismic events so far in the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. First, St. Peter’s knocks off Kentucky in a shocking upset. No one saw that coming.
The second, we all saw coming, especially the members of the Jacksonville State squad that watched as Auburn’s Jabari Smith sent them packing in the first round with a thunderous exclamation point of a dunk.
Air Jabari Smith Lifts Off
JABARI SMITH FOR THE LOVE OF ELEVATION pic.twitter.com/IXlERkfByy
? CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 18, 2022
There’s no doubt that Jabari Smith, a soon-to-be NBA Lottery pick, is one of the nation’s best college basketball players.
The Auburn Tigers’ rise to dominance in the SEC is a testament to that fact. But this dunk is on another level. After getting bounced out of the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament earlier than anyone would have anticipated at the hands of Texas A&M, it’s likely that Smith and Auburn had some time on their hands to think about their loss. I’m talking “sit in a dark room while an old school projector flickers game footage on the wall as you sit there, not moving or blinking for 72 hours” kind of time.
This dunk is all of that anger, disappointment and embarrassment exorcised in one single moment. With this dunk, Jabari Smith has reminded the rest of the NCAA Championship hopefuls that Auburn basketball cannot and will not be defined by one single game. In addition to that, this is a warning shot. Auburn is mad and they’re here to take out their rage on any team that stands in their way. If they can’t win the SEC Tournament, that’s okay. They’ll settle for the Natty.
How do we know this? Smith’s dunk doesn’t come off a fast break or a set play. Instead, this dunk comes after Smith catches his own three-point rebound and takes it in for the jam. Smith didn’t have to go this hard and punctuate this game with any kind of “put it on a poster” dunk. Auburn had this game well in hand, up by 19 points, running the gamecocks ragged to the tune of 77-58 BEFORE this dunk. Auburn would hold JSU at that distance until the final buzzer, advancing to the second round with a resounding 80-61 win. Aside from the ferocious dunk, Smith amassed 20 points, 14 rebounds and four assists. Not bad for the college hoops superstar.
The Tigers just put the rest of the Midwest Region on notice. And after today’s game that saw Smith, Walker Kessler, K.D. Johnson and Allen Flanigan get good minutes in what will be looked at as a tune-up session, it’s easy to see why Bruce Pearl’s Auburn squad is a force to be reckoned with moving forward this March. #WAREAGLE