Bruce Pearl on Auburn basketball goal Tigers have accomplished during his AU tenure

South Carolina v Auburn
South Carolina v Auburn / Michael Chang/GettyImages

Bruce Pearl wanted to make Auburn basketball a program worth getting excited to play when he first arrived on the Plains.

Mission accomplished.

The Tigers have been a tournament team four times in the last six years. One of those years (2019-20) saw the tournament canceled when AU was expected to be a top-16 overall seed in the tournament, while the other (2020-21) was a season in which Auburn was banned from postseason play anyway.

Ahead of February 17's marquee matchup against John Calipari's vaunted, if underperforming, No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats, Pearl opened up about his Tigers' accomplished goal of being other schools' proverbial Super Bowl on the hardwood.

“Having been at Tennessee at a time when Auburn was good but not great, it was simply a game that we had on our schedule that we didn’t want to overlook, that we knew we had to play hard to win, but it wasn’t one that we were excited about playing,” Pearl said (h/t “We wanted to work really hard so that Auburn basketball wouldn’t be holding the rest of the league down, and maybe someday it would be a game that other teams at the top of our league would be excited about playing.”

Auburn basketball in pole position to win SEC regular season title

Auburn does not have an easy schedule left, but after blowing out the SEC's previous No. 1 team, South Carolina, on February 14, six games remain and two of them are against Georgia, and one is against a winless-in-conference Mizzou.

Alabama, which owns a one-game lead over Auburn and South Carolina entering play on February 17, has two meetings with Florida and a meeting with Kentucky on the road. Both AU and Bama play Tennessee, but the Tide also has Ole Miss on the road.

This one will come down to the wire, but Tiger fans should feel good about where Auburn finds itself right now.