Teams: Orange of Syracuse (3-2, 0-0) against n ° 19 Auburn Tigers (4-1, 0-0)
Day and time: Friday, November 26, 4:30 p.m. ET
Site: Imperial Arena, Paradise Island, Bahamas
Television / broadcast: ESPN2, WatchESPN
Rivalry: 1-0, Syracuse
Current series: 1, Syracuse
First / last meeting: Syracuse and Auburn have only met once, and it was a fond memory for Syracuse. The Orange narrowly beat the Tigers 79-78 in the Sweet 16 of the 2003 NCAA Tournament, with Carmelo Anthony leading with 18 points. You probably know what happened later that year.
Head coaches: Syracuse – Jim Boeheim (46th grade, 1,086-411) | Auburn – Bruce Pearl (eighth grade, 106-86)
Coach biography: Pearl was a manager at Boston College in college. His first job upon leaving British Columbia was assistant coaching jobs at Stanford and Iowa. His first head coaching position was in Division II with Southern Indiana. The program has consistently won at least 22 games under Pearl and won the National Division II Championship in 1995. Pearl returned to Division I in 2001 with Milwaukee. After his first season in charge, the Panthers have won at least 20 games in Pearl’s last three seasons, making the NCAA tournament twice. In 2005, Pearl led Milwaukee to Sweet 16, with upsets against Alabama and Boston College.
Pearl moved after 2005 to take over as head coach of Tennessee. The Volunteers were immediately successful with Pearl at the helm, winning at least 21 games in his first six seasons at the helm. He stayed in Tennessee for seven years, participating in the NCAA tournament every year, including an Elite Eight. Pearl was fired in 2011 for recruiting violations surrounding Aaron Craft and other NCAA violations.
Pearl rebounded in 2014, taking Auburn’s post. The Tigers struggled from the start, finishing below 0.500 in his first two seasons at the helm. Subsequently, Auburn leapt up and competed in back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 2018 and 2019 with over 25 wins in both seasons. The Tigers reached the Final Four in 2019 before losing to future national champions Virginia.
Last year: After finishing with at least 25 wins in the past three seasons, the Tigers struggled, finishing 11th in the conference with a 7-11 record and an overall record of 13-14. Auburn did not make the playoffs after a self-imposed ban linked to former Auburn assistant Chuck Person’s involvement in the 2017-18 corruption scandal.
Last match: After a double emotional loss from OT to UConn in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Auburn rebounded with a 62-53 victory over Loyola Chicago. After a strong first half, both teams shot under 40% in the second half.
“Fear me, I killed hundreds of time lords”: Jabari Smith Jr. joined Auburn as the program’s highest-rated rookie, being a five-star consensus player and the top 10 of all recruiting departments. Not only is he one of two Auburn players to average over 15 points per game, he’s tied for the team lead with 7.4 rebounds per game.
If Syracuse wins: Baylor is lucky they didn’t face Syracuse.
If Syracuse loses: Auburn was lucky Syracuse didn’t have Carmelo this time around.
Fun fact: Auburn and Syracuse both have five former NBA players. You know the Orange players in Carmelo Anthony, Oshae Brissett, Michael Carter-Williams, Jerami Grant and Elijah Hughes. The Tigers alumni are Sharife Cooper, Davion Mitchell, Chuma Okeke, Issac Okoro and JT Thor.