Auburn, Ala.--Auburn’s pre-conference basketball schedules in recent years have not been particularly demanding, but under the Tigers’ new head coach that is changing.
Coach Bruce Pearl said that Auburn fans can expect to see their team regularly face strong opponents, both at home and on the road before league play begins.
“There is no better way of giving my players confidence from our coaching staff that we believe in them than by setting up a challenging schedule,” Pearl said.
“You want to get exposed and so you try to expose them to situations in practice,” he said. “You try to expose them in situations in an exhibition game or when we prepare before the season, but there’s nothing like when the lights come on and so there is not a lot of time. There is not a lot of gearing up for the league.”
Auburn’s schedule includes road games at Colorado, Texas Tech and Clemson and a tournament in Las Vegas vs. Tulsa and either Oklahoma State or Oregon State. The Tigers play UW-Milwaukee, Louisiana-Lafayette, Coastal Carolina, Xavier and Middle Tennessee State at home.
“I look for mid-major teams that have won their league or know how to win their league, played in the NCAA Tournament,” Pearl said. “They come in with a different confidence, they come in with a different level of coaching and preparedness, and they’re capable of beating you.
“In years that I’ve gone to the NCAA Tournament, we’ve lost to the College of Charleston, we’ve lost to Oakland. People say you’ve got very little to gain and a lot to lose by doing that. Those folks don’t understand mid-major basketball and they don’t understand what I’ve got to do to prepare our basketball team so when we go on the road in the SEC we’re not completely overwhelmed.
“There are not a lot of opponents that we can come up for air in the sense that if we struggle against anybody, it’s not like, ‘Well, the next game we got somebody coming up that’s going to be we can beat by two touchdowns.’ That’s just not where it’s at. You don’t have that in the SEC either.”
Pearl, who was hired to take over for Tony Barbee who was fired in March, added, “If this team is capable of going to the postseason, it needs to play a schedule like this where the math should benefit us should we put ourselves in position to be a postseason team.”