Jake Overman beat everyone to the arena on Saturday.
A freshman at Auburn University, and resident of Atlanta, ran Overman to Auburn Arena at 7:55 am to conquer his spot for the last regular basketball team. season game. He was the first in line for the final home game, a maroon victory against South Carolina that claimed part of the regular season SEC championship with Tennessee.
An overacceling team, Auburn (25-6, 13-5) went home 15-1 this season, and the energy of his huge student section was an important reason for the team's continued success.
The children in Auburn are crazy about basketball nowadays, and their energy has helped lift a sleeping basketball from Auburn back into relevance programming.
"We would not win without the student body, without the Jungle", said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl.
And the students like Pearl.
Let's repeat that because it's important, especially given the conditions in which Pearl and Auburn have worked this season.
The students, who have made one of the best spheres in college basketball this season, love their basketball coach. They have waited hours and hours this season to participate in competitions. They painted their bodies. They sang and waved and never sat down – even during time-outs.
Make no mistake, the students from Auburn helped save Pearl's job this season.
"Once we brought in Pearl, the games changed and we are getting better," said Overman, the freshman from Atlanta. "And students have just helped it, giving them the fire we need to build."
Maroon basketball started this season under a bag. An unprecedented FBI investigation into the systemic corruption of university basketball thrilled the team. Two of the best players of the team were not taken into account by the NCAA.
There was a point in the beginning of the season when people thought Pearl would be fired before the league game even began. Instead, his team won the SEC in a year that the league thinks it can place eight teams in the NCAA tournament. Auburn's championship is probably not the story that the NCAA or the SEC want to publish, but that does not mean that it is so important.
"The boys wanted to write history," Pearl said. & # 39; They did it truly, really. & # 39;
And when it was all done, after winning 79-70 against Pearl, Pearl picked up a microphone and turned the Auburn Arena into a tent revival. While calling the names of his players, he instructed the students and other fans to answer him with an "Amen!"
"Jared Harper", said Pearl.
"Amen!" everyone answered. "
" Chuma Okeke, "said Pearl.
" Amen! "The crowd called out
" Austin Wiley! "Pearl said.
" Amen! "shouted the arena.
Wiley is the highest-rated center of Hoover Spain Park High School, which by the NCAA for the season was there a better scouts team player in the history of college basketball?
Just think what Auburn could be next season when Wiley returns to school, he is not expected to do so. he'll be an NBA Draft collector for the first time, but it's tempting to think how good this Auburn team could be next season.
But let's not look ahead Auburn now goes to St. Louis with a double bye in a SEC tournament that will be entertainment for must-sees.
"It will go crazy," said Frank Martin, coach of South Carolina.
Here's an idea of how good the SEC is this Martin led last season's Gamecocks n the Final Four. This season he finished with a record of 16-15 overall and 7-11 in league game.
"If fans do not understand that every game in this league is like this game," Martin said, "then I do not know what else we can do to improve this competition."
Alabama lost its fifth consecutive game on Saturday. In previous seasons that would reduce the chance of a too large bid for the NCAA tournament for a SEC team. Not this season. With a record of 17-14 in total and 8-10 in the SEC, Alabama can still play its way to March Madness.
People will refute that, but it is true. That is how good the SEC has been.
That Auburn won the regular season title in such a competitive season for the competition is a remarkable achievement for the school, the players and especially Pearl, who began to cultivate his relationship with the student body of Auburn. long ago. He attends almost every first-year orientation, and, as he likes to say, then begins to "coach" the student body.
"They do not get that much talk from everyone except their parents, but their coach can talk to them like that," Pearl said.
And, man, the students once listened. Martin, the South Carolina coach, named Auburn's student section "the talk of the league."
"My first year in the competition and my second year in the competition we came here, and it was not like that," Martin said. "A lot of tributes to Auburn, it's administration and its fans, those children, and of course Bruce has made a part of it, to create the atmosphere they've created." It is phenomenal there, that is what colleges basketball is all about. "
Not long after Overman, the freshman from Atlanta, arrived on Saturday morning at Auburn Arena, freshman Reid Carter from New Albany, Indiana, and her friends arrived
Freshman Jonathan White from Memphis arrived about an hour later. # 39; s friend, Joel Sullivan van Hoover, estimates he has spent 40 to 50 hours this season on competitions.
Not far from Sullivan in the mob of students waiting for the coveted who comes first , first served. "in the jungle" was Daniel Corser from Alpharetta, Ga. Corser gets the prize for wardrobe dress of the year – homemade pom-pom pants and a painted chest with Auburn braces.
There were about 100 pumps poms attached to his legs.
"I collected about 40 pom-poms per game to make it," he said
Did he put them on pants?
No, of course not.
In the Corsican pom-pom trousers b built with duct tape and electrical tape.
One of Corser's friends painted his chest while I asked him about the impact that Pearl had on students this semester.
"We are all very excited about him and impressed by this great turnaround," said Corser. "I think everyone really thought about the beginning of the season because it was like," well, I do not know how this is going "because there were so many things going on, but we're all just very excited about Bruce Pearl now and everything he did.
"He does a lot to keep his job, so I think he's done a good job of making sure he's going to do that."
Joseph Goodman is a columnist for Alabama Media Group. He is on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr .