Auburn’s men’s basketball team played its final regular season game Saturday to cap off a year that will see them finish right about where the media expected them to finish in their preseason rankings—near the bottom of the SEC.
While expectations were low coming into Coach Tony Barbee’s second season, they were nowhere near as low (we’re talking subterranean) as those heading into the 1998-99 season.
Apparently those Tigers were supposed to be so bad that they were expected to lose before they even played a game. At least if the 1999 Glom is to be believed.
“The Auburn Tigers took the world by surprise when they began their preseason game as an undefeated team.”
That’s pretty bad. Even for Auburn.
While most Tiger fans will remember that team as one of the best in school history, finishing the regular season 29-4 and earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament before eventually losing in the Sweet Sixteen to Ohio State, they did enter the season unranked in the AP poll. Still, it’s hard to imagine any credible media predicting they would lose before they even took the court.
Fortunately, Cliff Ellis’ team far exceeded all expectations and “conquered some of the top rated teams” that “came to the plains determined to break the spirit of The Auburn Tigers team and fan.” Chris Porter and company instead continuously showed that a spirit that is not afraid cannot be broken.
The enormously underestimated Tigers even managed to beat Vanderbilt “by approximately 19 points.” Winning by approximate scores is no easy feat and clearly exhibits the new level of respect the team earned over the course of the season.
Despite the struggles of the Lebo era and the early hurdles Barbee’s young squads have faced, no Auburn team during that time has been picked to start a season in the red. Sadly, no team during that span has exceeded expectations quite like that ’98-99 team did either. Maybe next year.
Riley Downing graduated from Auburn in 1999 and moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where he has been stuck ever since. He makes the most of his long daily commute and forfeits sleep in an attempt to keep up with everything Auburn and cling to his brief moment on The Plains. Follow him on Twitter—@FearlessandTrue.
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