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Auburn earns No. 4 seed in NCAA Tournament: 'Our road is difficult'

Justin Hokansonby:Justin Hokanson03/17/24


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Auburn basketball earned a No. 4 seed in the 2024 NCAA Tournament after defeating Florida in the SEC Tournament championship game and finishing the season at 27-7 overall.

The Tigers are in the East Region and will play their first and second round games in Spokane, Washington.

“They have been talking about us being out in Spokane a lot for some reason. Maybe that’s because that’s where the fours are. We were hoping that a SEC Tournament championship and wherever we are in the NET, maybe we’re five, would get us to the three line, but it obviously didn’t,” Pearl said. “Are we paying the price for being in Birmingham last year and getting an incredible opportunity against Houston? Perhaps. It’s a long way to travel for our fans.

“We’ve been in this a few times now. We got San Diego, we got Salt Lake City, and we did get Birmingham, but we also now got Spokane. This is three times they have shipped us quite a ways away. This is now the third time we’re being shipped across the country. You always wonder how much this thing was seeded before the Sunday final. We talk about it all the time. We talk about it on our league meetings. We’re grateful to be in the tournament and we’re grateful to have won a championship in the SEC.”

Auburn will play No. 13-seed Yale in the first round. If the Tigers win, they will play the winner of No. 5 San Diego State and No. 12 UAB in the second round. It’s the Tigers’ 14th NCAA Tournament appearance all time and sixth time in the last eight years.

“We played (Yale) in our place a couple of years ago. They will know how we will guard them, same coaching staff, different personnel,” Pearl said. “They won a competitive Ivy League. They are playing really well. Other side of the bracket is UAB and San Diego State, and then if UConn holds serve, it would be the Sweet 16. Of course, Illinois, Iowa State, Auburn are the top four seeds. It’s a tough bracket, our road is difficult, but the last time we got to the Final Four, we had a difficult road.”

The No. 1 seed in the East Region, which will host the second weekend in Boston, is UConn. Also included in the East is Iowa State and Illinois. Auburn has never lost a first-round NCAA Tournament game since the tournament expanded to the Round of 64 (or 68). Under Pearl, the Tigers are 7-4 in the NCAA Tournament, including the program’s first-ever Final Four appearance in 2019.

The Tigers just beat two NCAA Tournament teams in South Carolina and Florida while in Nashville. Auburn has won six straight games heading into the Big Dance.

“We’re playing well and playing together,” Pearl said. “I tell our teams, don’t think you have to get to the last game to play for the national championship. You are playing for the national championship when you play Yale. You can’t win it if you aren’t in it.”

Auburn will likely take Monday off and practice on Tuesday before traveling on Tuesday afternoon and arrive in Spokane on Tuesday night. The NCAA will decide when the team can actually arrive. Auburn will play on Friday and then possibly Sunday.


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