Two weeks ago on JoxFM in Birmingham, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said his team would have been undefeated at this point in the season and the national media would be talking about the Tigers as a Final Four team if Austin Wiley was eligible this season.
Even without Wiley, the national spotlight is squarely on Auburn now.
For the first time since February 2000, Auburn is ranked in the top 10, entering this week’s poll at No. 8.
The Tigers, who are 21-2 overall and 9-1 in the SEC, jumped into the top 10 in this week’s poll after knocking off Ole Miss and Vanderbilt last week. After seeing its 14-game win streak end at Alabama on Jan. 17, the Tigers have rattled off five consecutive victories to position itself atop the SEC.
Mustapha Heron (5) dunks vs. Vanderbilt. Adam Brasher - Staff Photographer
Auburn has a two-game lead over No. 15 Tennessee in the SEC heading into the new week. Auburn defeated the Volunteers 94-84 in Knoxville in its SEC opener on Jan. 2.
The Tigers lead Kentucky, Alabama and Florida by three games in the conference standings.
"They are playing really well," Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew said about Auburn. "They may be the hottest team in the country right now.”
Auburn was the beneficiary of chaos throughout college basketball over the weekend, as Duke, Kansas and Arizona all fell on Saturday. The Tigers jumped all three of the traditional powerhouse schools in this week’s poll.
As the Tigers continue to pile up wins, national experts continue to move Auburn up in their NCAA Tournament projections.
In his latest NCAA Tournament projection, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi placed Auburn as a No. 2 seed in the South Region. CBS’s Jerry Palm also placed the Tigers as a No. 2 seed in his projections.
Auburn will host Texas A&M on Wednesday as it looks to win its 10th SEC game and extend its home winning streak to 14 games. The Aggies have won four of their last five SEC games, including victories over Arkansas and South Carolina last week by a combined 37 points, after dropping their first five conference games.
"There are a lot of hazards on this back nine now," Pearl said about the upcoming stretch run in the SEC. "There is a lot of water and a lot of sand, and there are some really good teams on this back nine. We are just going to take it one hole at a time. We really don't have a bogey yet, but these holes are getting tougher.”
Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. inside Auburn Arena. The game can be seen on ESPN2.