75.7 F
77.5 F
Muscle Shoals
76 F
77 F
Fort Payne

How far can Auburn basketball go this year?

March Madness kicks off this week with First Four (not to be confused with Final Four) games wrapping up today, and Auburn fans across the universe are hoping for at least another Final Four (not to be confused with First Four) berth, perhaps this time with referees who have their eyes open just in case there’s a double-dribble to call.

In 2019, the Virginia Cavaliers handed 5-seeded Auburn a heartbreaking loss in the Final Four before beating Texas Tech to win it all. Auburn followed that season up last year with a disappointing losing record (13-17) after the world followed up 2019 with a global viral pandemic.

This year, it’s all behind Auburn with a dominant 27-5 record and its second highest seeding in the Big Dance (2) since earning one of the four top spots in 1999.

Auburn is poised for another run deep into the NCAA Tournament, but what will success look like over the next three weeks? If not an outright championship, what is the line that divides Bruce Pearl’s latest tournament run from being a triumph that moves an already successful program forward, and an unmitigated failure?

The answer is the Final Four. They have to at least reach the Final Four. Anything less is a disappointment. When you look at the field in front of them, it’s more likely than it is possible.

Of course, the NCAA Tournament has a history riddled with upsets. It exists to exhibit the glory of victory for teams who shouldn’t be there and the agony of defeat for Blue Bloods. It’s why fans irresponsibly clatter for the college football playoff system to expand past two brackets. Anything could happen to a 2-seed like Auburn at any given game just like any other team, and that begins when they play Jacksonville State Friday in Greenville.

That being said, there is a version of the college basketball multiverse that reflects a Tigers basketball team that doesn’t run into resistance until they meet Kansas in the Elite 8.

The bottom line is that Auburn can do it. They have the personnel, the coaching and the favorable field in front of them to again make a push straight to the Final Four.

Meanwhile, because the Dr. Jekyll side of Alabama basketball won a few games this year, the Crimson Tide is a 6-seed and will likely lose by 20 to Texas Tech in the illustrious second round.

At the end of the day, college basketball won’t allow Auburn or Alabama fans any fun. It’s Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season, and fate will dictate the Blue Devils winning it all as a special goodbye to the coaching veteran.

Who did you pick in your brackets? Let us know on Twitter at @TTFfootball, and take a listen below for a wider conversation on Auburn’s chances in the NCAA tournament, Brady’s comeback from retirement and more.

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