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The SEC's Worst Losses: Auburn

After smoking Missouri on Wednesday, Vanderbilt gets to play the only SEC team Mizzou has beaten this season.

I know you read these, Bruce!
I know you read these, Bruce!
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt has a home-and-home series scheduled with five teams in 2016; Tennessee, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Florida, and Auburn. One of those things is not like the other.

The Commodores will book a return trip to Alabama on Saturday when they face a Tiger team spiraling to the bottom of the SEC standings. Bruce Pearl's team has lost six straight games after a 3-3 start to league play and are without leading scorer Kareem Canty, who has been suspended indefinitely by the team. Since beating Alabama three weeks ago, Auburn hasn't just been losing - it's been losing by an average of 18 points per game.

So while Vanderbilt gets another no-win situation, Saturday's game will provide another opportunity for the Commodores to steel themselves before a season-ending four game stretch that includes games against the rest of their home-and-home partners. Vandy can't afford to take the Tigers lightly - a loss would likely extinguish any hope for an at-large bid - but the team should be able to use Saturday's experience to notch another victory on the road.

Auburn is ranked a mere seven spots ahead of Vanderbilt's last opponent Missouri. Somehow, those Tigers beat their western counterpart by 15 points back in early January. It wasn't Auburn's worst loss - an 18-point defeat to 9-13 Harvard was - but it may be the most relevant after Wednesday's game.

Auburn (9-14, 3-8 SEC, ranked No. 185 in Ken Pomeroy's ratings)

Worst Loss: vs. Missouri (8-16. 1-10 SEC, No. 192 KenPomNo. 233 CBS RPI), 61-76
Other Losses: Tons.

6'7 freshman Kevin Puryear recorded the first double-double of his career when he led the Tigers past...the Tigers. Auburn led with eight minutes to go in the first half, and then Mizzou went on a 17-2 run and established a double-digit lead it held for the rest of the game. Missouri shot less than 40 percent from the field but still managed to lead by as many as 26 points against an overmatched Auburn squad.

The Tigers recorded their first conference win on the road five weeks ago and then hasn't won a game since. Auburn beat arch-rival Alabama three weeks ago and hasn't even sniffed victory in the interim.

Point of emphasis: Make Auburn's guards take shots. The Tigers got a Kobe-esque 6-24 shooting performance from their guards in the loss - and that was before they lost Canty for an indeterminate amount of time. Canty was only shooting 40 percent this year, but that's still light years ahead of the 10-44 mark the team's guards have thrown up since his departure. Auburn will have to prove its backcourt can make shots in order to pull off the upset.

Keys to the Game:

  • Stop Cinmeon. Auburn's burly forward came off the bench against Mizzou, and while he played 25 minutes the Tigers were able to hold him to a five point, 2-9 shooting performance. Bowers recorded a double-double against Vandy the last time these two teams played, but it was anything but efficient. It took him 14 shots to score 13 points in the Commodores' 18-point victory. Another performance like that will lead the 'Dores to a series sweep.
  • Make your free throws. Missouri, a team that managed 16 free throws before Vanderbilt emptied its benches on Wednesday, got to the line 33 times against the Tigers. That's the kind of high-contact defense that players like Damian Jones, Jeff Roberson, and Wade Baldwin can exploit. Expect the Commodores to drive to the hoop and test the Auburn defense on Saturday.
  • Stay home and rebound. The Tigers have some size - three probable starters stand 6'8 or taller - but Vanderbilt will have the edge on the glass based on Mizzou's experience back in January. Missouri held a +7 rebounding advantage despite being the undersized team. Vanderbilt is bigger than Missouri and posted a +10 differential the last time it played Auburn.