Turning the calendars to March means something different to everyone. For some, it signifies the nearing of warmer weather, to students it represents a much-needed week-long break from their studies and for others the month merely represents 31 days of severe allergies. In the minds and hearts of college basketball fans, March means so much more.

The town of Auburn, Alabama, has become accustomed to looking forward to this month since the Tigers have risen to success under Bruce Pearl and now find themselves perennial contenders to make a run in the so-called “big dance” that is the NCAA March Madness tournament. This year is no exception.

Auburn finished its regular season at an impressive 27-4 and as SEC regular-season champions before heading to Tampa, Florida to be bounced in its first game against eventual SEC tournament runner-up Texas A&M; the Tigers’ 2022 campaign was nothing short of historic and was a justifiable cause for the unprecedented level of hype displayed by the orange and blue faithful.

As all teams deal with throughout the course of a season, there were certainly some bumps along the way, particularly down the stretch.

The Tigers dropped four of their last nine contests, effectively dropping themselves out of a one-seed in the national tournament, criticism swirled around the team’s struggles away from now-called Neville Arena and guard play has certainly been an area of inconsistency as of late.

All things considered, it is still mind-boggling as to how so many people have already counted this year’s Auburn Tigers as ‘down for the count.’ For every concern raised as of late, this group has concrete evidence of its ability to overcome.

There is a valid reason to worry about Auburn’s five losses coming away from home; snagging victories in hostile environments is certainly a trait the all elite teams must possess. That being said, Auburn posted the best road record in the SEC in 2022 and it wasn’t particularly close.

The Tigers dropped games to only Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee in the regular season with the group’s other two losses coming in neutral sites. The next closest squads to that benchmark within the SEC? Tennessee and Kentucky. Both of which dropped five games away from home.

When it comes to guard play, the argument against Auburn’s backcourt is absurd. Sure, KD Johnson hasn’t had the best stretch of games as of late and Wendell Green hasn’t been hitting from deep as much as fans have grown accustomed to; slumps happen. The key detail to remember here — however — is that, in the offensive absence of Johnson or Green, the Tigers have seen an increased scoring role from Zep Jasper. The senior transfer has begun to develop an offensive stroke as of late and continues to be a defensive menace to opponents backcourts.

In terms of the bigger picture, it is imperative that Auburn fans — and fans around the country — do not write this squad off because it feels like they may have ‘peaked at the wrong time.’ The NCAA tournament is about getting hot and staying hot. All it takes is one player to step up in that first game to light a fire within his teammates. Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler didn’t come to Auburn without reason.

While there are certainly a number of things Bruce Pearl’s team needs to do better beginning this weekend, it’s difficult to envision a world where the Tigers don’t make a deep run; this group is capable of more than it’s been given credit for as of late and it should not be a surprise if the orange and blue are cutting down nets the first weekend of April.