Finally, Auburn is on top of the men's college basketball world.
Bruce Pearl’s Tigers jumped past Gonzaga to claim the No. 1 ranking in The Associated Press’ Top 25 poll on Monday, which marked the first time in history Auburn has held the top ranking in the country.
— Auburn Basketball 🦚 (@AuburnMBB) January 24, 2022
“The No. 1 ranking matters because it’s historical. I’m very happy for Auburn,” Pearl said, via The Associated Press. “I’m very happy for my coaches and our players to have been able to achieve that. That said, we got a lot of work to do.”
Auburn has come close to the top spot multiple times in program history, most recently last week and during the 1999-2000 season when they hit No. 2. The Tigers reached the Final Four in 2019, and were ranked No. 4 at their peak the following season.
Auburn's jump in the rankings came after the Tigers beat No. 12 Kentucky 80-71 on Saturday to win their 15ht straight game. They rallied out of a 10-point first-half deficit and used an 11-2 run midway through the second half to take control and jump ahead — which allowed them to roll to the nine-point win. Walker Kessler dropped 19 points and seven rebounds for Auburn while shooting 8-of-10 from the field, and K.D. Johnson added 17 points.
Kentucky star TyTy Washington, who is slotted in the No. 12 pick in Yahoo Sports' latest 2022 NBA mock draft, was helped off the floor in the first half with an ankle injury and didn’t return. That loss snapped a four-game win streak for the Wildcats.
Auburn’s only loss this season came in a double-overtime battle to UConn at the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas in November. Though the rest of their SEC schedule certainly won’t be easy, the Tigers have only one ranked opponent — No. 18 Tennessee next month — left this season.
Gonzaga has not lost since dropping a game to No. 16 Alabama last month, though it has a relatively easy WCC schedule to close out the season. Arizona sits at No. 3 in the poll, and received one first-place vote this week. Baylor and Kansas then rounded out the top five.
Auburn is set to take on Missouri on Tuesday night.