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2017-2018 Record: 26-8, 13-5 1st in the SEC
Head Coach: Bruce Pearl
The Auburn Tigers entered the 2018-2019 season with thoughts on making a name for themselves in a Football dominated region. The Auburn Tigers Football team is amongst the strongest in the nation, but in terms of basketball they never really hit their stride.
While the Tigers had a respectable season going into the 2017-2018 tournament, they suffered an implosion of sorts in big matches. The Tigers were dominated by their rivals the Alabama Crimson Tide in their first match of the Conference Tournament then were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in devastating fashion by Clemson.
Due to their performance in 17-18, the Tigers entered this year with a respectable pre-season ranking at No. 11. Even though two of their starters transferred after last year, they retained most of their depth and finally had Samir Doughty and Danjel Purifoy available to play. Injuries hurt them to begin the season, but Bruce Pearl’s reliance and development of their depth were expected to carry them through.
Odds to Win National Championship
Start of the Season: +4000
Regular Season Record: 30-9, 11-7 4th in the SEC
The Tigers were projected to be a solid team for the majority of the season and really excelled in non-conference play to the tune of a 9-1 start to the season. They did, however, struggle as the season went on, finding themselves out of the Top 25 by the completion of their January schedule.
By the middle of February though, the Auburn Tigers were able to find their rhythm going forward. They completed the regular season on an eight-game winning streak while dominating Tennessee in the conference championship.
The Tigers’ dynamic duo of Chuma Okeke and Jared Harper were what spurred them to their late-season run. Their all-out offensive style eliminated their early concern for bench production and is exactly what served them going forward.
Odds to win National Championship
Entering the Tournament: +10000
The Tigers opened their campaign with a concerning opening round against New Mexico State. Auburn was their usual offensive selves, but their focus on offense allowed the Aggies to score at will on the inside. The Aggies shot 49% from within the arc and it was Trevelin Queen who aired a wide-open three that could’ve won them the game.
The Tigers seemed to learn from that first-round near-devastation though, as they cruised past top-seed after top-seed to make it to the Final Four. They soundly defeated Kansas and outran favorites North Carolina, who could not keep up with their scorching offense.
To not note the contributions of Chuma Okeke would be a disservice o the young forward. After putting up a 20-11 performance against North Carolina, he left the game late after tearing his ACL near the end of the match. They missed his presence on the inside against Kentucky, and it took some overtime heroics – and absolutely massive games from Jared Harper and Bryce Brown – in order for them to progress to the Final Four.
Auburn has never before reached the Final Four in the history of the Tigers’ basketball program. Bruce Pearl is extremely proud of his players, but the team is prepared to leave it all on the court.
They will miss Okeke in the paint and it is questionable if they can defeat a Virginia team who is top five in the country in offense and defense. Despite that the Tigers have overcome the odds all tournament long – they have certainly been tested.
The Tigers are still the underdog to win the tournament going into the Final Four, but they have the momentum and rhythm that are incredibly important in single-elimination tournaments like this. If their shooting can keep up, this Cinderella Story may be one of the greatest in history.
Next Game: Virginia Cavaliers vs Auburn Tigers
When: Saturday, April 6th at 6:09 PM EST
Where: US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
How to Watch: CBS
Current Odds to Win the Tournament: +700
Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
Email: [email protected]More info on Christian Jope
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