As head coach Bruce Pearl and his fifth-seeded Auburn Tigers prepare for their Sweet 16 game Friday night, they’re facing more than just top-seeded North Carolina. They’re up against history too.
>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<
The Auburn men’s basketball program has advanced to the Sweet 16 five times. Only once, in 1986, did the Tigers reach the Elite Eight. Never have they appeared in the Final Four.
Many believe this version of the Tigers can repeat, and perhaps eclipse, the heights reached 33 years ago. They average 79.8 points and 11.4 3-pointers, among the best marks in the country. They’ve reeled off 10 wins in a row, including four in four days to win the SEC Tournament. They then escaped New Mexico State’s upset bid in the NCAA Tournament’s first round before throttling Kansas in the second round.
After defeating Kansas to earn a spot in the Midwest Regional semifinals, Pearl was asked about his team’s win streak. “Guys are bought in. They’re trusting each other. No man is jealous of another man’s success,” Pearl said.
He then publicly recognized that God’s sovereign will is greater than his. “We put the Lord first, and trust whatever He’s got in store for us, we’re accepting of,” Pearl said. “We give Him the glory.”
Hear from Bruce Pearl after Auburn wins in Salt Lake City to move on to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003. 🐅🕺 pic.twitter.com/yHPULlmAFH
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 24, 2019
Pearl is a big reason for Auburn’s success. The coach has taken three different schools (Milwuakee, Tennessee and now Auburn) to the Sweet 16 as a head coach. In 2010 with Tennessee, he also reached an Elite Eight. After struggling during Pearl’s first three seasons at Auburn, the Tigers have reached the NCAA Tournament and surpassed the 25-win plateau each of the past two seasons.
Pearl and his Tigers tip off against the Tar Heels on Friday at approximately 7:29 p.m. ET.
– Virginia head coach Tony Bennett finds peace and perspective in his faith in Christ
– Nate Oats leaves Buffalo to take over as head men’s basketball coach at Alabama
– Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes named National Coach of the Year by USBWA