Tennessee Basketball is currently preparing for their final match-up of the regular season against the Auburn Tigers. The match-up will be the final time Jordan Bowden will play in Thompson-Boling Arena, and the Volunteers will also honor Lamonté Turner, who underwent season ending shoulder surgery earlier this year. It will likely be an emotional scene for Rick Barnes’ squad, however, they still have to pull it together in hopes of upsetting one of the SEC’s top teams, here’s everything you need to know heading into the Vols’ all important match-up against Auburn.
The Vols’ NCAA Tournament hopes seemed to be dead just a few days ago, however, after a stunning upset win against the 6th ranked Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena, those odds were resurrected. Unfortunately, Tennessee still finds themselves on the outside looking in according to most bracketology experts, but the upset victory put them back in the conversation. If they are able to pull out another stunning win against Auburn, they’ll have great odds at sneaking into the tournament.
So, if the Vols were able to snatch an unexpected victory against their former head coach, would that put them in? Well, there’s no clear answer to that question, but it would certainly drastically improve their odds. They may still have to win a couple of games in the SEC Tournament, but earning a victory against Auburn would be absolutely monumental.
As for the implications of this match-up for Auburn, they’re in a much different boat. The Tigers are comfortably in the tournament — a 6 seed according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Winning on the road against Tennessee would give them momentum as they end the regular season and head into the SEC Tournament, however, losing could deflate Pearl’s squad as they enter the postseason. Additionally, if they were to come out on top again, it would allow their narrative about Bruce Pearl having Rick Barnes’ number to continue.
Auburn is a much different team from last year. Unlike the Tigers that many Vol Fans are used to, they seem to struggle from beyond the arch as they have a lot of difficulty getting shots to fall from the outside. In fact, they only shoot 30% from 3-point range, and with Tennessee’s elite defense, that could fall even farther down.
Samir Doughty is the Tigers’ lead scorer as he averages 16.2 points per game, followed by Isaac Okoro, who averages 12.9, and J’von McCormick who normally scores 11.6. Austin Wiley, who leads the team in rebounding, will be working in the paint as Vol Fans likely have very unpleasant memories of him over the last few years.
Coaching the Tigers will be a very familiar face for Vol Fans. Bruce Pearl, the former head coach at Tennessee, is known for having the Volunteers’ number after becoming the head coach on the Plains. Whether or not he will continue to prove that narrative on Saturday is yet to be seen, however, it’s no secret at all that he really wants to come out victorious against the team that fired him.
How to Watch
Tennessee’s match-up against the Auburn Tigers will be televised by ESPN2 on Saturday, March 7th, 2020, at noon eastern time.
You can also listen to the game for free on WNML Radio, or catch our recap and immediate analysis after the conclusion of the match-up on Volunteer Roadshow.
It is certainly feasible to imagine a scenario where Tennessee defeats Auburn tomorrow, in fact, some may claim it is likely. The Vols have everything to gain from winning this match-up, and their collapse on the road against the Tigers a couple of weeks ago is likely still fresh on their minds.
I think this match-up will go very similar to the one we all witnessed a few weeks ago. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Tennessee jumped up on Auburn quickly, and even went into halftime with a double digit lead. However, I also believe Auburn will make a push in the second half again, and — just like last time — they’ll power their way right back into the game.
But, this time, it’s Tennessee who benefits from a home crowd, and I predict that it will be the Vols who end up prevailing in the end. It will be a massive win for the Vols and will put them in a terrific spot to conclude the regular season.
Tennessee 69, Auburn 64