Auburn basketball: Final Four? It’s a goal — adjust your expectation level accordingly

Anfernee McLemore is back from an injury and part of a loaded Auburn lineup in 2018-19.
Anfernee McLemore is back from an injury and part of a loaded Auburn lineup in 2018-19. /

Are you excited about Auburn basketball? Because you absolutely should be.

On Tuesday, Bruce Pearl’s team held its first practice. But before they hit the court, Pearl and point guard Jared Harper met with reporters to talk Auburn basketball.

And if you’re not sitting down, you probably should.


Because Auburn is thinking big things this season. No, make that really big things this basketball season. Take it from Harper, the junior point guard:

Let that sink in for a minute.

Final Four. Championship. In basketball.

And your reaction shouldn’t be: No freaking way. Get out of here with that talk.

No, your reaction should be: That’s interesting. That’s very, very interesting.

Because there’s a part of you that believes it can happen. There’s a part of you that knows it’s a possibility.

This is why Auburn hired Bruce Pearl to be its basketball coach. There is real excitement about Auburn basketball. That didn’t seem likely in Pearl’s first season on the Plains.

Or his second. Or even his third.

Especially when you look at how outmanned the Tigers were early in Pearl’s tenure. He referenced his first season when seldom-used big man Devin Waddell was forced to guard Kentucky freshman Karl-Anthony Towns. Kentucky beat Auburn 110-75 in the regular season and 91-67 in the SEC Tournament.

No offense to Waddell — he made two starts in four seasons and scored 29 career points. Towns is averaging 21.6 points per game in his first three seasons in the NBA, made the All-Star team last season and just signed a 5-year, $190 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

That’s about how wide the gap was between the two programs.

Last season, Auburn beat Kentucky, 76-66.

That’s how far Auburn basketball has come.

“I know where they’re going to pick us,” Pearl said Tuesday. “I know what the preseason magazines say. And I love it for Auburn basketball. I think it’s phenomenal that we’re a preseason top 10 or top 15 team. I think it’s great. I used to spend my whole career fighting to get somebody on the cover of Street & Smith or have Blue Ribbon basketball pick us anywhere but near the bottom.

Next. Anticipation for Auburn hoops at all-time high. dark

“So I think that’s all great. It helps with recruiting, it excites our fans. I’m not running from that at all.”

That’s a good thing because it’s coming right at Auburn. The. Big. Time.

Are you ready for it?