AUBURN, Ala. –Once it was all over and No. 2 Auburn extended its winning streak to 15 games on Saturday afternoon with an 80-71 victory over No. 12 Kentucky, Tigers coach Bruce Pearl m joined for a postgame interview live on CBS. At this point, the players were celebrating in the stands with the fans. Some still had their jerseys on. Others were topless. The sold-out crowd had been whipped into a complete frenzy. So, naturally, I asked Pearl about our surroundings – and her answer was just about perfect.
“Look at the kids. Look at our students. Look at our players,” Pearl said, with a big smile on her face. “And, Gary, that’s what this is about. And what excites me the most is that I know this is happening in North Carolina. I know this is happening in Kansas and elsewhere. Auburn, Alabama.
“Listen, we are a football school! Pearl shouted. “But we are also an EVERYTHING school.”
No arguments here.
The greatest game in Auburn Arena history will soon be remembered as the game that propelled the Tigers to No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time in history. This is my prediction. So any celebrations here in Auburn on Saturday will likely quiet down a bit on Sunday, then pick up again on Monday when the AP Top 25 poll is updated. History will – or, at least, history certainly should – be made.
Remember, the Tigers received KenPom.com and to BartTorvik.com. So whether you’re an AP voter who ranks teams based on their resume or an AP voter who ranks teams with predictive metrics in mind, there’s basically nothing to suggest Auburn should be out. of the top five on a ballot.than Gonzaga last Monday, but still finished four points behind the Zags in the AP poll, in part because a few voters placed Auburn sixth and ninth on the ballots, the presumed explanation being that even though Auburn had this which most considered the best resume in the country. , sixth or ninth was more in line, at the time, with where some predictive metrics (like KenPom.com and BartTorvik.com) ranked the Tigers. But that’s no longer true. After Saturday’s win, Auburn is down to No. 5 at
That’s why Auburn should close that four-point gap.
That’s why Auburn should move up to No. 1.
The Tigers are now 18-1 overall, 7-0 in the SEC and tied with Davidson for the longest winning streak in the sport. More importantly, they’re 6-1 in Quadrant 1 and 4-0 in Quadrant 2 — or 10-1 in the top two quadrants with wins over five of the top 30 KenPom teams. Only Baylor has as many wins in Quadrant 1. No one has a better record inside the top two quadrants. And the Tigers remain the only team that still hasn’t lost in regulation time. The only loss is a double-overtime loss to UConn on neutral ground almost two months ago.
It’s a solid body of work.
Yes, it’s worth noting that Kentucky lost five-star rookie TyTy Washington in the first half to a left ankle injury, and there’s no denying that’s where things started to go downhill. The Wildcats led nine points when Washington left the game for good; they lost by nine runs. It’s an 18-point swing in the game’s final 28:24 that underscores how crucial it is for Washington to heal and get back on the court as soon as possible.
But that shouldn’t take away from Auburn’s incredible day.
The students camped out, entered the arena early, received a pep talk from Pearl about 90 minutes before the whistleblower, and helped create an impressive environment. Walker Kessler led the Tigers with 19 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Jabari Smith added 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Auburn shot 56.8 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from 3-point range and 82.8 percent from the free throw line. It’s the kind of numbers that lead to victories, and it’s the kind of victories that often lead to unprecedented achievements.
As I wrote on Friday, among the first things you see when you walk into the Auburn locker room is a sign that reads “Make History.” On Saturday, Auburn improved on an already impressive body of work with a win over the SEC’s all-time best program. Now, on Monday, the Tigers should do exactly what this sign says.