"It's big for both teams," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo says. "Everybody is still scrambling around down here to try to get to that third seed (for the SEC Tournament). There is a lot of basketball left to be played, but it's big, there is no doubt about it. It's big for that reason, but it's also big because it's Auburn-Alabama."
Auburn comes into the game after an 89-70 loss to second-ranked Tennessee. Alabama had an off week to prepare for Jeff Lebo's Tigers, playing its last game Feb. 16, a 67-65 road loss at the hands of South Carolina.
"They have had a week to get ready for us both times," Lebo points out. "The first time, we had an off week in conference, but played Presbyterian on a Tuesday and we just played Tennessee on a Wednesday, so they have had a lot of days to do different things. They did some different things to us the last game that we hadn't seen because they had that week to get ready."
The Tigers are led by seniors Quan Prowell and Frank Tolbert. Tolbert is having a run of good performances and is averaging 19.6 points in Auburn's last five games despite playing with ankle and elbow injuries. The do-everything, play-any-position attitude of Tolbert has carried over to his teammates and Lebo is impressed.
Unfortunately for Prowell, he plays in the post, probably the most difficult spot in basketball for someone to stay out of foul trouble.
Quan Prowell is a key scorer, rebounder and defender for the Tigers.
Alabama is a big team, which usually gives Auburn trouble on the defensive end. Junior forward Richard Hendrix (6-9, 255) is averaging 18.6 points per game and is leading the conference in rebounding, averaging 10.2 boards a contest.
After sweeping the series last season, Auburn lost the first meeting between the two squads this year 97-77 in a game in which the Tigers could not find an answer for the Tide's barrage of three point shots. In that game, Alabama's Brandon Hollinger made six threes and Mykal Riley made four.
"In our game, they did some things that I hadn't seen them do in the past," Lebo says. "They played five guards some, which I had not seen them do. They have done that a few times since then a little bit. They have made some changes. Game to game they have made those changes depending on who they are playing. Certain games and matchups they will play different guys more than other guys."
A sellout crowd is expected on Sunday afternoon. At halftime, the ODK James E. Foy Trophy will be presented to the Auburn football Tigers for a sixth straight year to commemorate their victory over Alabama.