Tuesday, January 11, 2022


NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Auburn
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Expect the unexpected. That’s been the mantra for the Auburn sports fan most of my life. The duality of the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Knocking off a top 5 Florida football team in back-to-back years. Everything around Cam Newton and 2010, and then 2012. The Prayer in Jordan-Hare. The Kick Six. The goal-line fumble against Texas A&M. The softball program undergoing an astronomic rise, then falling apart in scandal. Playing “BUTT’S OUT” against #1 Georgia and #1 Alabama, only to see them face off against each other in the national title and getting played by Jimmy Sexton. Looking like the best team in the SEC after a 4-14 preseason projection, then having a breakout Anfernee McLemore get hurt and have the season fall apart after. Still winning the SEC despite that. The FBI investigation, Chuck Person, the Berry scrimmage, the SEC Tournament and the Final Four run. And then the Final Four game.

Should I keep going?

Two weeks ago, Crow, Chief, and I were recording the latest episode of Orange & True. We were fresh into the new year, and Auburn was sitting at 1-0 in SEC play and 12-1 overall after thumping a previously undefeated LSU in Auburn Arena. A road trip to Columbia and a home tilt with Florida lay on the horizon, and despite Auburn looking like one of the best teams in the country, I hedged. I was worried a less talented South Carolina team could be a stumbling block, or that a Florida program that had only lost to Auburn thrice in the previous two decades could rear its ugly head. I was expecting the unexpected.

And that’s when Crow and Chief stopped me. No more hedging, no more acting like this Auburn team was destined to disappoint eventually.

“Peacock”, Crow said.

Since then, I haven’t been able to think any differently about this team than that one word. Peacock.

This basketball team, as evidenced by today’s AP Poll and basically any computer ranking system, is one of the five best teams in the country. It’s headlined by arguably the best pro prospect in the country in Jabari Smith, who has brought NBA scouts to Auburn Arena drooling. Not only does he have the ability to score on anyone whenever he chooses, but he has the swagger of an NBA MVP as an 18 year old.

This team has THE premier shot blocker in the country, who’s also responsible for the first triple double in over a decade for Auburn and only the second ever. All while looking like he should be a 7-foot-2-inch enforcer for Team Iceland in D2: Mighty Ducks.

Bruce Pearl brought in a trio of guards to run the backcourt, including one who was one of the two best players for the Georgia Bulldogs a year ago, and who plays basketball like an NFL safety. To quote Billy Gomilla’s description of Saints running back Alvin Kamara, “I’m not sure he’s faster than everyone else, but I’m positive he makes everyone else slower”.

And of course, you can’t forget the King of the Jungle himself, Dylan Cardwell. The sophomore center plays to the crowd perhaps better than any college athlete this side of Cam Newton. He has a career in professional wrestling this whole basketball thing doesn’t work out.

Sports are supposed to be fun. Who cares who won the national title last night? If it wasn’t Auburn, frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. In front of us is a team that is elite, and is infinitely fun to watch play basketball. It may not be a Kentucky roster with 8 NBA players, and they likely won’t win every single game they play this year. And?

Your job as a fan isn’t to go one game at a time, to keep everything in front of you. You don’t have to focus on only the game in front of you, because you aren’t the one on the court. Your job is to be loud, flamboyant, obnoxious, and uniquely Auburn, whether you’re a student in the Jungle, sitting in the upper deck, watching at home, or engaging on Twitter.

Make the memes. Look at postseason tickets. Tell opposing fans to kick rocks when they tell you this isn’t the best team in the country.


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