About a month from now, the NCAA Tournament will bring another round of March Madness to the sports world. After losing five in an eight-game stretch, there are questions as to whether or not the once-ranked Auburn Tigers will even make the big dance.
As of now, Auburn is still in the field of 64 somewhere between a 7- and 9-seed, which is surprising because the Tigers are only 5-6 through 11 games in the SEC and still have a few difficult games on their schedule the rest of the way. If the season ended today, the Tigers would be playing opening night of the SEC Tournament.
The Tigers still have to go to Kentucky, host both Mississippi State and Tennessee, and travel to an always-hostile game at Alabama. None of those games will be easy, especially now that Auburn has lost two-straight including a five-point defeat to the Ole Miss Rebels.
You can blame Auburn’s struggles on the loss of junior Austin Wiley, but the truth of the matter is that if Bruce Pearl’s team cannot hit the 3-point shot, which they rely on so heavily, they are dead in the water. The perfect example is their loss to the LSU Tigers. They got off to a hot start, but eventually cooled off, and the Tigers caught them. Despite almost throwing it away in the end, LSU wound up winning the game.
This season, Auburn is far and away the SEC leader in both 3-point attempts (710) and 3-pointers made (265).
This is no longer about winning the SEC title. That is secondary as Auburn needs to focus on surviving the rest of their schedule and positioning in the SEC Tournament.
Despite having 16 wins, Auburn’s only win against a ranked team came when they beat then-No. 25 Washington in the second game of the year. They can change that narrative if they can defeat either Kentucky or Tennessee who both should be ranked in the top 10 when Auburn plays them. It would be a great resume builder, improve their standing in the SEC and give them a better seed in the SEC Tournament.
Question is, however, can the Tigers pull it off before they are on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament?