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Saint Louis Auburn Basketball

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Saint Louis, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

QUESTION: How the heck did Alabama and Auburn leapfrog Mizzou in the years since they joined the SEC in 2012? Mizzou was coming off a 30-win season and Auburn and Alabama were cellar dwellers. I know 'Kim Anderson' happened but it shouldn't have happened. Now they are ranked and Mizzou is still Mizzou.

MATTER: Alabama basketball hasn't exactly done anything special in a long time - just one NCAA Tournament appearance since Mizzou joined the SEC eight years ago. The new staff in Tuscaloosa under Nate Oats has recruited well and landed a few transfers, but I wouldn't say that program has elevated its status far beyond Mizzou's program. 

There’s no secret to Auburn’s sucess. The program took a gamble on a coach with a lot of NCAA baggage—but a guy who can recruit and coach at a really high level. Not all schools have the stomach to hire someone with Bruce Pearl's background, but knowing that it's a football school first and foremost, Auburn realized it had less to lose when it came to handing the hoops program over to someone with a sketchy past. It's paid off - for now. Auburn is a top 25 program and reached the Final Four for the first time. But the NCAA is going to come knocking eventually on the heels of the FBI probe that targeted Auburn. 

Dave Matter

@dave_matter on Twitter

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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