Bruce Pearl on Bradley: ‘They don’t just beat themselves’

Bruce Pearl is not overlooking Auburn’s first opponent in the Cancun Challenge, which kicks off November 22 south of the border.

Bradley, a Missouri Valley Conference squad that went 17-14 last season, will be the Tigers’ first matchup of the eight-team tournament. Northwestern, Southern Miss, last week’s opponent Winthrop, Purdue Fort Wayne, Eastern Michigan, and Liberty make up the rest of the field.

Pearl noted that the Braves won’t just make the mistakes necessary for the Tigers to run away with the opening-round matchup of their college basketball Feast Week tournament (h/t 247Sports):

“A lot of times we can game plan and know, if we do this we can really take something away. It is much harder vs. Bradley by virtue of the way they run their offense. Then defensively, they have held their last three opponents to 60, 61, 62 points. They were No. 3 in the nation in defensive efficiency. They just don’t beat themselves.”

Bruce Pearl worried about Bradley’s adaptability

Bruce Pearl always finds a way to make his opponent sound like a world-beater, even when it is a Division III school playing Auburn in an exhibition game. When speaking about Bradley, which has won 20 games three separate seasons under current head coach Brian Wardle, Pearl gave props to their ability to alter game plan when necessary.

“In particular they do a great job with their read and reacts,” Pearl said. “If you do this, they do that. If you do that, they do this.”

Bradley features several transfers and doles out most of its minutes to upperclassmen. Wardle has built a fine mid-major squad, and given they’re only a 12-13 point underdog, oddsmakers see them keeping things a lot closer than the last three AU opponents and right around where opening-night opponent George Mason was.

Still, if this year’s Tigers are going to make any March Madness noise, they need to beat Bradley and go on to win the 2022 Cancun Challenge.