The Iron Bowl of Basketball has quickly become one of the best rivalries not just in the SEC, but in college basketball as a whole.
With both teams on the rise, tonight’s tilt in Neville Arena is the first Top 20 matchup between the two teams since 1987 and just the fifth time in their 170-game history that the two schools are ranked. The game will be carried on ESPN2 — tipoff is 6 p.m.
The magnitude is not lost on the head coaches of each team either, with Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl and Alabama Head Coach Nate Oats exchanging some friendly jabs in the days leading up to the game.
Oats started it off with comparing Neville Arena to the environment of a high school gym in the way students are so close to the court and how loud it gets:
“It reminds me a lot of high school gyms, just with a lot more people in there. You pack 2,000 people in a high school gym and get a similar setting. Now you pack whatever they seat 8, 9, 10,000 whatever it is. That place gets loud.” – Nate Oats on Auburn's Neville Arena pic.twitter.com/3aZr6QUfxs
— The Next Round (@NextRoundLive) February 6, 2024
“It’s hard to hear yourself even think, it’s hard to get play calls, hard for the players to communicate on defense, it’s loud,” Oats said. “It’s great I love it. It reminds me a lot of high school gyms, just with a lot more people in there.”
While Oats’ comments could certainly be construed as a compliment, Pearl had a bit more of a direct jab referencing the suspension of Alabama big man Nick Pringle, who will be available to play tonight according to Oats.
Bruce Pearl on Nick Pringle being available for the Auburn game tomorrow: @abc3340
"They were a little thin on the front line but one of the players that was suspended is available for the Auburn game, imagine that." pic.twitter.com/e6i6OQjVW9
— Chris McCulley (@ChrisMcCulleyTV) February 6, 2024
“They were a little thin on the front line but one of the players that was suspended is available for the Auburn game, imagine that,” Pearl said with a scowl.
Not that this matchup needed anything extra, but both coaches know how to push the buttons of the opposing fanbase and have made this season’s part two of the Iron Bowl of Basketball even more anticipated than it already was.
Michael Brauner is a Senior Sports Analyst and Contributing Writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @MBraunerWNSP