Auburn Basketball: A win against Florida will slide Tigers into Big Dance

Here we take a look at Auburn basketball’s matchup against No. 17 Florida, where Bruce Pearl looks to define his career at Auburn with a trip to March Madness.

March Madness is on its way as the top 16 seeds were revealed in a “historic” in-season look at the tournament bracket. What brings concerns for the Auburn Tigers, however, is the placement of Florida at No. 11, and the Valentine’s Day matchup that could change Auburn basketball.

The last time that Auburn made the trip to the tournament was in 2003, when Marquis Daniels and crew took a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Since then, the Tigers have failed to have much success, becoming one of the lowest teams in the SEC.

Now the reins are in the hands of Bruce Pearl, who has seemingly single-handedly rebuilt the organization from the ground up, rejuvenating a recruiting process that had been dead for decades. A team that is built on the foundations of 5-star recruits Mustapha Heron and Austin Wiley, along with 4-stars Danjel Purifoy and Jared Harper, the path to stardom is visible over the horizon.

Recent collapses against Mississippi State and Ole Miss suggest that this is a team still going through a learning curve. A team that is hoping to get as much experience as they can, there’s growing excitement to what the 2017-18 season could bring with Chuma Okeke, a 4-star small forward from Fairburn, Georgia, joining the crowd on the Plains.

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This isn’t exactly the type of success or recruiting that Auburn is used to — basketball isn’t exactly something that happens in Alabama. Yet Florida presents something to both Bruce Pearl and Auburn in what could be a historic turnaround.

That upset win over Kentucky last year was fantastic, but it didn’t define Pearl’s legacy and it didn’t turn things around. The entirety of that roster is completely different to where it is now, with freshmen and sophomores taking the majority of shots.

Pearl would become an Auburn legend if he could say he took a team to the NCAA Tournament — that’s just unheard of on the Plains. In order to keep his team on the path to burst the bubble or crack a double-digit seed, Florida will need to lose. After Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss in disappointing fashion, Pearl will need to complement the worst loss as a head coach in Auburn with this defining win.

Florida presents a tough task with the usual tough defensive style and efficient offense. If Auburn is able to make a dent in Florida’s SEC schedule and head down the stretch against Arkansas, this is a team that could make March Madness, madness.

It would also mean that the SEC Championship would become a bit more interesting, as the Tigers would have the resume take down just about any opponent thrown at them. This is with some consideration to Kentucky, who have slowed down in recent weeks.

Auburn can make the splash, they just have to get things started against Florida.

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