For North Carolina it’s just another Sweet Sixteen, for Auburn, it’s a Chance of a Generation
North Carolina basketball is synonymous with success.
Fifty NCAA tournament appearances (second all-time), 34 Sweet Sixteen appearances (also second all-time) and 20 Final Fours (most all-time). For North Carolina, this year’s Sweet Sixteen appearance is the norm, just business as usual.
Then there is Auburn, Auburn has been to the big dance just 10 times, just half the amount that North Carolina has made it to the Final Four. Auburn is one win away from matching their deepest tournament run in history, which came under coach Sonny Smith in 1986.
For Auburn, this game is as meaningful as any played in the 21st century. Already having won the SEC Tournament championship, Auburn would tie the school record for wins if they were to get their 29th against the Tar Heels. For a program that suffered through a mediocre six years under Jeff Lebo, and an abysmal four years under Tony Barbee, who could have fathomed the Auburn Basketball program could get to this point just five years later?
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl was quoted earlier in the year saying he wanted to become a top 25 program, not just a top 25 team. This is the type of game that swings the pendulum.
Typically, to become a top 25 program, years and years of success have to go into it, and historically, it will still take that for Auburn to reach that status. But, if we’re talking current top 25 programs, Auburn is on the cusp.
A Sweet Sixteen game against North Carolina is the exact type of game that can truly change the perception of Auburn. Make an Elite Eight by beating Kansas and then top-seeded North Carolina?
That’s no accident, that’s not even the mark of one great team. To pull a feat like that off, it takes years of work, preparation, and growth. It takes a top 25 program, to be exact.