Tyler Harris, his three straight double-doubles and his defense here are in Cincinnati to play Xavier
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― Bruce Pearl says the numbers add up for Xavier, and that makes the Musketeers one of the best basketball teams around heading into Saturday's game against Auburn.
“There is some really impressive math here," says the Auburn coach.
Pearl's new math goes something like this: "Xavier is No. 1 in the RPI, five out of the last eight years they've been to the Sweet 16, they've got the fourth-best winning percentage at home in the last five years of any team in the country," he says.
Auburn plays at No. 10 Xavier at 11 a.m. Saturday, Auburn time, and Pearl says the numbers suggest it will be a tough one.
Xavier is 10-0. Auburn is 5-2. But Pearl says there won't be any sneaking up on the Musketeers, not after the Tigers beat them in Auburn Arena last year. Pearl said that was Auburn's best win last year. This year?
"It's the loudest building that our kids will play in," Pearl said. "I would say it's probably going to be the toughest environment that we are going to play in all year. So it's just a great opportunity for our program to sort of see where we're at right now."
Where Auburn is right now is waiting to play Xavier. Immediately after the Tigers do, they'll board a plane for a trip to Hawaii, where they'll play three games next week.
Talk about a road trip…
"We have four games to do that against four SEC-caliber opponents either on the road or on a neutral site," Pearl said.
But, he added, "It's just about us right now."
That means he'll piece together his guards for Saturday, after seeing one guard, Tahj Shamsid-Deen return to action Tuesday with a shoulder brace, losing TJ Lang to an ankle injury in the same game, and seeing Kareem Canty hurt his ankle as well, only to hit one 3-pointer after another to help Auburn beat Mercer.
Still, all were nursed along after the game, with Pearl saying Auburn wouldn't have a tough practice leading up to Saturday's game for fear of other injuries. He's played six point guards already.
"I think in the long run it's going to help us. I do. In the short run, has it been challenging? Yeah, and it shows up in your execution," Pearl said.
Auburn has nevertheless been one of the best offensive teams in the country, riding the hot-shooting of Canty, three straight double-doubles from Tyler Harris and two straight double-doubles from Cinmeon Bowers.
The game will be televised by Fox Sports 1.