Monday Musings From The Plains (Winning-20-Games Edition)
Anfernee McLemore hit four 3-pointers in Auburn's win over Miss State Saturday. (photo: Auburn athletics)
It’s almost time for March Madness, and the Auburn men’s basketball team most likely secured a berth in the NCAA Tournament Saturday with an 80–75 win over Mississippi State in Auburn Arena.
Can we finally put to bed talk that surfaced this season questioning Bruce Pearl’s ability to have his team belong among the conference elites. It was the second consecutive 20-win season for the master of ceremonies, and it placed Auburn in a tie for fourth place in the SEC race.
And the Tigers came oh so close to finishing even stronger with close losses to Kentucky, Ole Miss, LSU, and South Carolina. But the 20–8, 9–7 record should be more than enough to send the Tigers to the Big Dance.
I know, Auburn still has to play rival Alabama on the road and No. 7 Tennessee at home, but the resumé should be good enough to punch its ticket to the Big Dance. Winning at least one of the last two and have a good showing in the SEC Tournament could improve the Tigers’ chances at a good seeding for the NCAA Tournament. But regardless, we now expect them to be named on selection Sunday.
The Auburn women finished a strong season Sunday with their sixth road victory in SEC play this year. The Tigers’ 56–46 victory over LSU broke the school record of five road wins last accomplished in 2009. The Tigers (21–8, 9–7 SEC) clinched their first conference winning record in 10 years and the 21 regular-season wins is the best yet under Coach Williams-Flournoy.
As the 6th seed in next week’s SEC Tournament the Tigers will play the winner of Alabama-Vanderbilt game at approximately 7:30 p.m. CT Thursday in Greenville, S.C.
No. 15 Auburn baseball team completed its first sweep of the season this weekend by defeating Cincinnati 5–0 in game one and 9–5 in game two in Saturday’s doubleheader at Plainsman Park. It was the Tigers’ fourth sweep in the last seven nonconference series.
Head coach Butch Thompson said he loved the way his team was aggressive on the base paths. “Our base running was really good, [and] the defense was really clean all weekend. [With] 26 strikeouts over two walks, our pitching staff gave us a chance to get the sweep.”
Auburn has the makings of a great starting rotation heading into conference play with with Tanner Burns, Jack Owen, and Davis Daniel. The thing is, the Tigers need to turn it up at the plate. Even with the sweep, the Tigers struck out 26 times in three games. That will not get it done against SEC competition.
The Auburn softball team made a statement to the league and the nation in its showing in the Judi Garman Classic in California over the weekend. The Tigers proved they can play with the best teams in the country. They went 3–1 in the weather-shortened tournament, dominated No. 20 Orego,n and lost a close extra-inning game to No. 5 Washington before the tournament was cancelled due to inclement weather.
The No. 12 Auburn gymnastics team was not picked to finish near the top of the league but surprised everyone when they wound up in a battle for the championship with Alabama Saturday. The Tigers finished second in a close one, 196.700–196.400. It was Auburn’s second-highest road score of the season, and marked the Tigers’ highest finish in program history.
“To me, this is a tremendous year,” Auburn head coach Jeff Graba said. “That seemed impossible with the gauntlet we ran.” The tight competition will prove beneficial for the post season.
Finally we can’t close the column today without a word about yesterday’s tragedy in Lee County. It was a tense few hours for people in east Alabama and west Georgia as several tornados roared through the state on Sunday.
Although there was no loss of life in Auburn or Auburn University, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said at least 23 people were killed when two tornadoes hit the Beauregard and Smiths Station communities. And the sheriff said he expects that total to rise today.
It’s times like these that puts everything about the college sports we all love into perspective. God bless the first responders, God bless the people who lost loved ones and property, and God bless Alabama.