The Auburn basketball program is right where fans, in their wildest dreams, imagined it could be when it made the controversial decision to hire coach Bruce Pearl nearly three years ago.
Heading into a game against Ole Miss on Tuesday, the No. 22 Tigers were undefeated in the SEC and ranked in the AP Top 25 college basketball poll for the first time since 2003. Auburn opened its conference slate with back-to-back wins against ranked teams, downing then-No. 23 Tennessee and No. 22 Arkansas last week.
However, life for Auburn under the often-embattled Pearl, whose previous stint at Tennessee was cut short after several NCAA violations, in the words of Langston Hughes, "ain't been no crystal stair. It's had tacks in it, and splinters and boards torn up and places with no carpet on the floor."
Apart from a miraculous run to the SEC Tournament semifinals as a No. 13 seed in 2015, Pearl hasn't been able to recreate the magic he brought to Milwaukee and Tennessee, where he guided his teams to nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Despite posting its first winning record in the Pearl era in 2016-17 when it went 18-14, Auburn endured its third straight losing record (7-11) against league foes under his regime.
Things appeared as if they'd get worse before they got better when Auburn assistant Chuck Person was one of four coaches at high-profile schools arrested as part of a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting. But that didn't adversely impact the Tigers' performance. Let's examine what has helped Auburn turn the corner in Pearl's fourth season.
What's going right with Auburn basketball?
Sporting News - NCAAB | Jan 10