The Auburn men's basketball team put on an inspiring performance against Tennessee on Sunday to win the program's first SEC Tournament title since 1985.
The Tigers, winners of eight straight games and 10 of their last 11, are one of the hottest teams in the nation. They'll look to carry that momentum forward in Salt Lake City starting today in what's a tough regional draw, featuring a potential second-round matchup against traditional power Kansas, with an even more difficult matchup looming against North Carolina in the Sweet 16 if the Tigers advance.
Pearl and the Tigers are preparing for any possibility.
"We’re going to look at the whole thing," he said. "We’re going to look at North Carolina. We’re going to look at Kansas. We’re going to look at all the teams from our region because those are teams that we will have to have to beat if we’re fortunate enough to advance. We’ll certainly focus on the first one and this first weekend. We won’t look past that. We’ll get ready and scout three teams."
With the SEC Tourney win, the Tigers earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional. They'll face a No. 12 seed New Mexico State this afternoon that has won 19 straight games and boasts a 30-4 overall record and a WAC Tournament championship.
Pearl isn't deeply familiar with the Aggies' team, but knows head coach Chris Jans.
"I know his teams play really hard. They’re very athletic," said Pearl. "They play in an underrated conference. Of course, we’re the dreaded 5-12 game."
Auburn will try to continue featuring its relentless pressure defense and deadly perimeter shooting against an Aggies team that turns it over about 12 times a game and typically gives up seven-made three-pointers.
The Tigers and Aggies will tip off at 12:30 p.m. today in Salt Lake City. The game will be broadcast on TNT.