There have been numerous “firsts” in recent years for Coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers, who will add another one this week when the College Gameday television show will be broadcast from Auburn Arena on Saturday morning. It is not unusual for the football version of the show to visit the campus, but this is a first for basketball.
Later that day the Kentucky Wildcats will be at the arena for an SEC matchup of teams that met last year at Kansas City with a spot in the Final Four on the line. The Tigers found a way to pull out a victory in overtime against a very talented team despite Chuma Okeke not being able to play due to an injury. Kentucky will arrive on Saturday with another talented team that looks to be loaded with future pros.
Last Saturday at Auburn Arena the Tigers played well for about 35 of the 40 minutes of game time in defeating Iowa State as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Against Kentucky the Tigers may need to play even better to have a good chance of handling the Wildcats.
Pearl said he wanted his Tigers to do a good job of representing the Southeastern Conference in the challenge series, which concluded with five wins for the SEC and five for the Big 12.
In addition to defeating the visitors from Iowa State, Auburn closed its home non-conference schedule with a 29th straight victory in those contests over four seasons. The last non-conference loss at Auburn Arena came in January 2016 vs. Oklahoma State in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
The Tigers will be tested this Saturday to keep alive another winning streak of 14 in a row vs. all opponents at Auburn Arena.
From the notebook:
• Coach Gus Malzahn’s 2020 football recruiting class received a major boost earlier this week when 6-5, 280 defensive lineman Deandre Butler from Covington, Ga., chose the Tigers over Oklahoma and Oregon. Scheduled to graduate from Independence Community College in Kansas this May, he will arrive at Auburn with four years to play three seasons of football.
With the Tigers rebuilding the defensive front, bringing in a player who may be able to contribute immediately is good news for line coach Rodney Garner and the defense as a whole.
• Auburn signee Sharife Cooper will be in Houston on April 1st to participate in the McDonald’s All-American Basketball Game. Only two previous Auburn players, Korvotney Barber and Frank Ford, have been named McDonald’s All-Americans. Cooper is a six-foot point guard from McEachern High in Powder Springs, Ga., who was USA Today Player of the Year as a junior.
• April 1st is also the day that Team USA will visit Jane B. Moore to play an exhibition softball game vs. Auburn. The sport is back for 2020 Olympics for the first time since 2008 and the national team will be touring the country getting tuned up for the competition in Tokyo.
Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter