Austin Wiley can hardly believe it’s gone by so fast.
But his time playing in Auburn Arena is closing — and he knows exactly how he wants to end it.
Auburn’s seniors are trying to go out undefeated at home their senior year, capping the schedule with one more Jungle victory tonight when the Tigers take on Texas A&M in their home finale.
No. 18 Auburn (24-5 overall, 11-5 SEC) tips with Texas A&M (14-14, 8-8) at 6 p.m., with Auburn putting its perfect home record on the line and wearing it as a point of pride.
Wiley is one of five scholarship seniors who will be celebrated tonight for their history-making careers at Auburn, with the program’s first-ever Final Four banner hanging overhead.
But for them, it’s about much more than a celebration. It’s about a win. And it’s about finishing that undefeated home record, and getting another part of their legacy set in stone.
“It means a lot to us, because we’ve been through a lot of ups and downs during our time here at Auburn,” Wiley said Tuesday as the team geared up for Texas A&M. “To go out and possibly be an undefeated team at home this year, one of the few teams to do it, means a lot.
“So we’re going to play our best.”
The win would also take Auburn one step closer to locking up the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament.
Auburn clinched a double-bye spot on Tuesday night by virtue of South Carolina’s win over Mississippi State elsewhere in the conference. Auburn can’t fall further than the No. 4 seed even with losses tonight and in the regular-season finale at Tennessee.
By getting to the No. 2 seed or the No. 3 seed, though, Auburn can avoid regular-season champion Kentucky until the tournament championship. Auburn controls its own destiny to the No. 2 seed and would claim it with two wins to close the season.
But Auburn expects a mighty challenge out of Texas A&M. The Aggies have proven they can play on the road, winning at Alabama, at Missouri and at Tennessee this season.
And as a program, Texas A&M has won five straight games at Auburn.
“They’ve done very well on the road, and the reason is because they’re really good defensively,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said, looking ahead to the Aggies. “They hold teams to 65 points a game, and defense obviously travels.”
Auburn’s five scholarship seniors are Wiley, Samir Doughty, J’Von McCormick, Danjel Purifoy and Anfernee McLemore. All five played important roles in Auburn’s run to the Final Four last season.
All five have plenty to celebrate tonight.
“It obviously means a lot to be a part of the Auburn Family,” Wiley said. “Like I said, we’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. But at the end of it all, it just means a lot that all the fans have my back when times were hard. It was great winning here. So it just means a lot.”
The SEC Tournament begins March 11 in Nashville, Tenn.
Auburn will be among the top four teams in the standings entering the tournament who claim double-byes into the quarterfinals. Nine out of the last 10 teams to win the SEC Tournament have come from a top-four seed. Last year’s Auburn team was the only exception.