Auburn checks out the sights in Hawaii
By Charles Goldberg
Auburn officially begins SEC play against Tennessee on Jan. 2, but, in Bruce Pearl's way of thinking, the step up in competition has already begun.
The Tigers played at No. 1 RPI team Xavier last Saturday, and now has three games in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii starting Tuesday against New Mexico.
"I told the team before we left on this trip that we might as well look like we are starting our SEC season right now," Pearl said. "We didn't get off to a very good start. We got our doors blown out at Xavier, and we are going to be playing another very talented team.
"We have to play like we are on fire and get our intensity level up. I have to do some things. That is my job to get us to play harder and play together."
Xavier beat Auburn 85-61 on the first stop on this long road trip. Pearl says the Tigers, with a 5-3 record, will have another challenge against 7-3 New Mexico at 1:30 p.m., Auburn time, in a game that will be televised by ESPNU.
Auburn will have the red-hot Kareem Canty, who is averaging 24.7 points the last three games, but will be without fellow guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen, who is out with yet another shoulder injury.
"Your heart goes out to him for all he has gone through," Pearl said in this story.
Depending who wins, Auburn will play either BYU or Harvard on Wednesday; and then play either Oklahoma, Northern Iowa, Hawaii or Washington State on Friday. Pearl hopes to knock off a team with a good RPI along the way. The Tigers are ranked 56th in the NCAA's RPI standings.
"If you look back historically, New Mexico is a perennial NCAA Tournament team and a high seed," Pearl said.
New Mexico scored a 76-57 win over Northern Iowa, whose claim to fame this season are wins over North Carolina and Iowa State.
"They are a dangerous, dangerous team because they are very explosive offensively," Pearl said.
The Tigers began their Hawaii adventure Sunday by visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine