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Q&A With Will of College and Magnolia

We went behind enemy lines for the skinny on why a team with a tiger for a mascot can’t seem to shut up about eagles.

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Auburn Julie Bennett-USA TODAY Sports

Oftentimes when teams meet at exempt events such as the Maui Invitational, they bring with them fanbases that have very little common history and little no prior knowledge of the inner goings on of the opposing team. With that in mind, Will of College and Magnolia, Auburn’s SB Nation home, and I exchanged burning questions about the opposing fans’ view on the upcoming clash in Hawaii.

Auburn basically runs 6’8” and under in their rotation. Is this a team that is going to live by the three and die by the three or is there a plan b in place if the deep shots aren’t falling?

When Anfernee McLemore went down with a horrific injury in mid-February, Auburn’s offense lived and died by the 3 the rest of the season. In the season opener this year, the Tigers made 18 3s, more than in any game last season. Almost everyone on Auburn’s roster is capable of shooting and making 3-pointers. While Auburn will continue to heavily rely on the three this year, one huge difference in this year’s team from last year’s team is the return of Austin Wiley. Wiley is 6’11”, 260 pounds, and gives Auburn a huge presence inside to throw the ball to in the paint. The offense so far this year has been more predicated on getting the ball into the paint to not only Wiley, but Horace Spencer, McLemore and Chuma Okeke. This will be Wiley’s 3rd game back after having to sit out for a year and he seems to have worked the rust off, so that bodes well for Auburn going forward.

In spite of said size deficiency, you guys are absolutely crushing the boards on both ends so far. What is the reason behind this, and is it something that you see holding up as the games get tougher in SEC play?

Crashing the boards is a classic element of Bruce Pearl teams. While Auburn may be undersized, they make up for it with energy and toughness on the boards. Auburn was excellent in this department last year and have done more of the same so far this year. Being able to get long rebounds off of missed 3s will be critical for Auburn this season. Rebounding was a huge difference in the Washington game as the Tigers out-rebounded the Huskies 41-24. I think it’s something you’ll see throughout the season. Last year, Desean Murray (now at Western Kentucky) played mostly at the 4 and despite being 6’3”, he was an excellent rebounder. Multiple players have recorded 10 rebounds in a game this year so everyone is capable of doing it and doing it well.

The SEC has three of KenPom’s top 10, as well as Mississippi State and Florida lurking in the 20’s. If Auburn wins the conference this year, what went right for them and who was the player who got them over the top?

The SEC was good last year. I think it’s much better this year. With Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn being the consensus top 3 teams, it helps that Auburn faces both at home, while only traveling to Kentucky. All that said, I think it’s going to be a tough task for Auburn to repeat as SEC Champions but the Tigers have the pieces to do it. Unlike last year, Auburn has depth at every position and have guys that can play multiple positions, making for some interesting lineups at times. If Auburn wins the conference this year, it means the team stayed healthy, shot the 3 well and guys like Wiley and Chuma Okeke had monster years. To me, Okeke is Auburn’s best NBA prospect. He’s able to go into the paint, rebound, and is also an excellent 3-point shooter. When you think of an NBA player, he fits the mold well.

Why is your famous cheer War Eagle if your mascot is a Tiger?

Note: I took this off of Auburn’s website but it explains it so much better than I can.

”War Eagle” is Auburn’s battle cry -- not a mascot or nickname. “War Eagle” has become a way for the Auburn family to greet and identify with each other all over the world. Anywhere you’re wearing something with an Auburn logo on it, chances are you’ll hear a friendly “War Eagle!”

The most popular story about the battle cry dates back to the first time Auburn met Georgia on the football field in 1892 and centers around a spectator who was a veteran of the Civil War. In the stands with him that day was an eagle the old soldier had found on a battlefield during the war. He had kept it as a pet for almost 30 years.

According to witnesses, the eagle suddenly broke free and began majestically circling the playing field. As the eagle soared, Auburn began a steady march toward the Georgia end zone for a thrilling victory. Elated at their team’s play and taking the bird’s presence as an omen of success, Auburn students and fans began to yell “War Eagle” to spur on their team. At the game’s end, the eagle took a sudden dive, crashed into the ground, and died.

But the battle cry “War Eagle” lived on to become a symbol of the proud Auburn spirit.

Whenever Auburn people gather, the battle cry “Warrrrrrr Eagle!” is almost certain to be heard. It has been a part of Auburn’s spirit for more than 100 years.

Which Xavier player concerns you when you consider our squad?

Looking over the roster and the statistics, I’ll go with Tyrique Jones. I noticed he had a 19 point, 20 rebound performance against Evansville. Seeing that rebounding will be a key element to this game, I’m fascinated to see how he fares against Auburn’s big guys.

Do you have a prediction for the final score?

Based on Auburn’s fast paced and high-powered offense and the amount of points Xavier has given up the last two outings, I honestly think Auburn is the better team. That said, this game makes me nervous for two reasons: one, it’s a 9:30 local start. Which team will come out ready to go for the morning tip-off? Second, there’s that elephant in the room known as Duke potentially looming in the semifinals. It’s no secret that Auburn fans cannot wait for the opportunity to face off against the Blue Devils so will Auburn be completely focused on Xavier? Bruce Pearl knows this is a big week for his team and I think he’s instilled that into his guys so while I think it will be close for awhile, Auburn pulls away late. Auburn 89 Xavier 75