By any reasonable assessment, Auburn beating Alabama by 18 points should be nothing but a celebration for the Aubies. Alabama Basketball got smacked around by Auburn Wednesday night, with the Tigers winning in Neville Arena, 99-81.
What inflamed Auburn fans watching the ESPN broadcast of the game, had nothing to do with what happened on the court. Instead, it was what Auburn legend Charles Barkley said during a sideline interview.
What Charles said on national television was pure unvarnished truth.
"... I know I’m going to get in trouble for saying it – we’re like the stepchild. We’re never going to be Alabama, but we want to beat them every time we play them. We’re kind of like Oklahoma State, UCLA, Kansas State. There’s nothing wrong with it. Auburn is a great school."- Charles Barkley
Auburn fans exploded in anger on social media. How dare Barkley, to basically say that Auburn is second-rate?
Another Auburn legend, former head football coach Pat Dye said almost the same thing back in 2017. Dye bluntly stated that "Auburn could not catch up with Alabama football in 500 years." Auburn fans were just as unhappy in 2017 as they were Wednesday night.
Enough about the Aubies, what should Crimson Tide fans take from the game? Auburn seized on Alabama's well-known flaws. The Crimson Tide, except for one claw-back run, had little in the way of answers. Nothing Auburn did should surprise anyone. Even those who loathe Bruce Pearl must admit his teams play hard. In Auburn Arena, the Tigers often model the temperament of their coach and try to bully opponents.
Another smart comment by Barkley was Bama's "little skinny dudes" were just no match inside for Auburn's brawn.
Nate Oats did not sugar-coat anything, saying after the game.
"[Auburn] was better than us. They played harder. They out-rebounded us. ... They took advantage of our smaller lineup inside. ... A lot of the effort stats you look at, they were better than us. ... We got to play harder."- Nate Oats from Mike Rodak
What the loss means for Alabama Basketball
Technically, with matching 8-2 records, Alabama, Auburn, and South Carolina are tied for the SEC lead. Tennessee, which beat LSU Wednesday night, is a half-game back at 7-2. The Crimson Tide has four home and four away SEC games left, the first being Saturday in Baton Rouge.
Finishing 15-3 and maybe even 14-4 should give Alabama at least a share of the SEC regular season title. There are only seven championship contenders as teams with four (or fewer) SEC losses. Joining Alabama, Auburn, and Tennessee are South Carolina and Kentucky. Also at four losses are Florida and Texas A&M, which have each played only nine SEC games. Four of Bama's remaining eight SEC games are against Florida (2), Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Two bottom line points to close - there is much basketball left to play and after Wednesday night, at 4-6, Bruce Pearl still has a losing record against Nate Oats.