Auburn, Ala.--With a much improved regular season behind them, the Auburn Tigers are preparing to hear their name called on Monday when the NCAA Regional selections are announced at 11 a.m. CDT.
Picked to finish last in the SEC West in Coach Butch Thompson’s second year on the Plains, the Tigers instead went 35-24 overall and won 16 conference games in the regular season before beating Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament earlier this week.
With an RPI in the low 40’s, Auburn could be considered a bubble team by some, but the quality wins are what should easily push the Tigers over the top.
Going 13-12 against Top 50 RPI teams, including series wins over #3 Florida, #12 Arkansas, #29 Mississippi State, #31 South Carolina and #36 Ole Miss, Auburn’s top wins match up with just about anyone in the country.
Only Florida (23), LSU (23), North Carolina (20), Kentucky (18), Arkansas (18), TCU (17), Baylor (16), Texas Tech (16), Texas (15), Mississippi State (15) and Tulane (14) have more this year.
With the big wins at the top of the ledger, Thompson said his team has done some good things and he feels like they will be rewarded well on Monday when regionals are announced.
“I’m very optimistic,” Thompson said. “I know we have nine wins versus Top 10 teams. We won seven out of 10 SEC series. We beat some of the best in our league in that category. Playing in this league is a grind, there are highs and lows but there is a steadiness that prepares you.
“You can just see time and time again going through the 10 SEC weeks and getting to participate in the tournament, it makes you ready. Sometimes you learn from your failure more than anything. I think you can look at history and look at great teams and great people for that matter. We have a lot to learn.”
Junior pitcher Keegan Thompson's return from injury has been one of the reasons for Auburn's improvement.
Riding a rollercoaster for much of the last month of the season with a big series win at Mississippi State followed by a seven-game losing streak, winning three out of four games against Ole Miss before being run-ruled by Arkansas in Hoover, the Tigers now turn the page to the postseason.
For seniors such as Daniel Robert it’s the last opportunity to leave a legacy at Auburn and help the program continue to build for the future. He said all they can do now is keep grinding and try to go out on a high note.
“Hopefully our resume can speak for itself and we can get in there,” Robert said. “There’s nothing we can do now but work as hard as we can. We’re not going to look back and regret anything.”
Regional host sites will be announced on Sunday night with the full 64-team NCAA Tournament field announced on Monday at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.