Is Auburn a basketball school now? The Tigers (18-1) ascended to the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press Top 25 on Monday and will take the court as the nation's top team for the first time in school history Tuesday at middling Missouri in SEC action. Auburn is a 14-point favorite at Caesars Sportsbook.
Gonzaga had been the No. 1 team in both polls and didn't lose last week, but Auburn's win 80-71 win Saturday over then-No. 12 Kentucky apparently was enough to convince enough AP voters to move the Tigers up a spot and the Zags down one. Gonzaga does remain the No. 1 team in the USA Today Top 25 and the +650 national title favorite at Caesars. Auburn is +1200 and is on a 15-game winning streak.
Bruce Pearl tends to bring NCAA violations wherever he goes, but that dude can coach and he might have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft on his roster in 6-foot-10 freshman Jabari Smith (15.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg). The Georgia native was the No. 7 overall player in the Class of 2021 via sister site 247Sports and the No. 2 power forward behind Duke freshman Paolo Banchero, who also could go No. 1 in the 2022 draft.
Pearl has now led three schools the No. 1 ranking along with Southern Indiana in Division II back in 1997 and Tennessee in 2008. He is one of three head coaches all-time to have three schools reach No. 1 in the polls, joining Frank McGuire (St. John's, North Carolina and South Carolina) and John Calipari (UMass, Memphis and Kentucky). Pearl is the only one to lead two SEC schools to the top spot, and Auburn is the eighth SEC school to achieve a No. 1 national ranking all-time.
Auburn currently has just one more ranked opponent on the regular season schedule: Feb. 19 at No. 18 Tennessee, but games at Arkansas (Feb. 8), Florida (Feb. 19) and Mississippi State (March 2) will not be cakewalks. Tonight could be a trap game.
The Tigers are the fifth team to reach No. 1 in the AP Poll this year, following two stints by Gonzaga and runs by Duke, Purdue and defending national champion Baylor. Duke is the +900 second-favorite to win the national title and Purdue and Baylor both +1000. Auburn has joined Purdue as the second team to reach No. 1 for the first time in school history this season. It's the first time that two teams have reached No. 1 for the first time in the same year since 2008-09 (Louisville, Pittsburgh).
To make the Final Four, Auburn is +280. CBS Sports' Jerry Palm currently has Auburn as a No. 1 seed in the Midwest for the Big Dance. The school has made it there once, in 2019. It lost to eventual national champion Virginia 63-62 when UVA's Kyle Guy made three free throws with 0.6 seconds left.
The only way Missouri (8-10) reaches the NCAA Tournament is if it wins the SEC Tournament, and that's not happening. The Tigers did upset No. 15 Alabama on Jan. 8 when the Tide visited Columbia.
Tuesday marks Mizzou's 23rd all-time game against a No. 1 ranked team, and Mizzou is 4-18 all-time against them. Three of Mizzou's four all-time wins against No. 1 have been in Columbia. The last time Missouri hosted a No. 1 team was Jan. 29, 2015 and Kentucky won 69-53.
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