For a team playing on Wednesday, we got a pretty good draw.
The SEC Basketball season is behind us and Auburn has continued its long-standing tradition of playing on Wednesday. The 11th seeded Tigers take on 14th see Missouri Wednesday night at 8:30 pm central. Missouri is a familiar opponent for the Auburn Tigers. We played them twice this year and beat them twice. Auburn took a 77-72 decision in Columbia on January 10. We followed that up with an 89-78 victory this past weekend to close out the season.
Auburn should be a substantial favorite to beat the 7-23 Missouri Tigers. If they do so, it would move the Tigers to 19 wins, which, in the past has been a minimum threshold for SEC teams looking for NIT bids. The problem is, beating Mizzou a third time (in addition to our sweep of LSU and Alabama) might not garner enough respect to guarantee an invitation.
A win against the new Tigers would set up a huge rematch with Ole Miss Thursday night. This is actually a really good draw for the Tigers. At the time the Auburn/Missouri game concluded, Auburn's most likely second round opponent was a very dangerous Vanderbilt team that destroyed Auburn in their evil-sideways gym back in January. Auburn did not want to face the Commodores in Nashville with an NIT bid in the balance.
Auburn matches up more favorably with Ole Miss. While Auburn lost both games against the Rebels, both games were very close. Ole Miss scored 55 in the second half to escape the Plains with an 88-85 win in January. In February, the Rebels erased a 20 point Auburn halftime lead with a 63 point second half. If we can convince the conference to end the game after 20 minutes, I really like our chances. If we have to play a full 40, Auburn better find some second half defense.
A hypothetical third-round game would be against Arkansas. Again, this is a comparably favorable draw for the Tigers. Auburn lost a competitive game against the Hogs at home a week ago. The games against other third-round byes, Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina were far less competitive. Auburn would go in to this game a substantial underdog, but this is about as kind of a bracket as we could expect.
In the semi-finals, Auburn would likely get either Florida or Vanderbilt. Right now, I'm less afraid of the two seed Gators than the seven seed Commodores.
In the finals, barring a huge upset on the other side of the bracket (and assuming Auburn could run the gauntlet described above), Auburn would get Kentucky. The Cats stumbled some in the middle of the SEC season and have started games slow recently before running people off the floor late.
Auburn has a 75-80% of beating Mizzou. After that, we have a 45% chance of beating Ole Miss, so the odds you're cancelling your Friday plans to watch Auburn basketball would be in the neighborhood of 33%. Auburn would be 20% underdogs in the next two rounds, giving us a 6% chance of another miraculous run to the semis like 2014-15 and a 1% chance of advancing to the finals. After that, I'm just telling you there's a non-zero chance.
While the future is bright on the Plains, the future isn't now. The present, hasn't been all bad. Auburn won the second most games since 2003-04 and most of our contributors are coming back. So let's brace ourselves for one last wild weekend of #SECBasketballFever and hope that when the smoke clears, the Tigers have done enough to reach the NIT.
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