AUBURN, Ala. — Since beginning conference play at the end of December, most of Auburn basketball’s games haven’t evoked an amiable feeling.
Whether it was the Tigers’ hard-fought battle at Kentucky — after that game Bruce Pearl and John Calipari openly spoke about their dislike for one another — or a back-and-forth contest with LSU, the mood on the road and in Auburn Arena has been heated if not hostile.
That was certainly the case last week when Pearl’s team defeated rival Alabama before traveling to Columbia, S.C., and being dealt its own lopsided defeat.
This weekend, however, will be a little bit different. As Auburn takes on TCU in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas, the Tigers will be rooting for their familiar foes.
“This is an important weekend for the SEC,” Pearl said. “I don’t always root for my brothers in the SEC, human nature sometimes makes it difficult to do that, but I do on this weekend for sure.”
Auburn’s task in the fight for conference supremacy is beating the Horned Frogs.
Of all the different teams competing in the challenge, Pearl believes TCU is most like his own team. Similarly to Auburn, TCU isn’t led by one star. Forward Vlad Brodziansky (13.8 points per game) leads a group of seven players who contribute consistently.
“They’ve been playing better than us, they’re 36 in the RPI,” Pearl said. “They’ve got two point guards that are both terrific and great in ball screen offense. They do run a couple of sets that we run. And so it’s from a standpoint of just sort of familiarity. We’ve seen the things that they do. We run some of the things — we don’t run them as well as they run them — but we run them.”
Still, to be successful, the Tigers will have to comprehend and then execute their game plan, something the group didn’t do last time out against the Gamecocks.
“We had breakdowns in either the teaching or the understanding. I don’t think it was the game plan,” Pearl said. “But I’m responsible for both designing a defensive game plan and getting the guys to understand it and execute it, and we clearly did not understand it and execute it, because we just didn’t. And they picked us apart. They just picked us apart. So yeah, we definitely have room for improvement in that area. Certainly, defense and rebounding win championships.”
Auburn basketball Saturday
Projected starting 5
* Blocks per game
Auburn vs. TCU game details, time, TV channel
TCU (14-6, 3-5 Big 12) vs. Auburn (13-7, 3-5 SEC)
Game time: 6 p.m. ET
Where: Schollmaier Arena, Fort Worth, Texas
How to watch online: ESPN.com
Follow live stats: GameTracker