After Auburn's 75-66 win on Saturday and the recent history between the two schools, is this now a rivalry?
What makes a rival? Dictionary.com defines a rival as a person who is competing for the same object or goal as another, or who tries to equal or outdo another; competitor.
Well, Auburn and Kentucky are both competing for conference and national championships, while having to outdo the other in the process. That was easy. Auburn and Kentucky are rivals, case closed.
I know it's not a satisfying answer and by that logic Auburn would be rivals with every team in the conference and country. I think a deeper dive is in order here to truly understand what separates this matchup from others.
Let's take a look at the stats, since the 2017 season via ESPN.
- 75-20 (1st in the SEC)
- Won 2019 SEC Tournament
- Reached the Final Four
- 72-23 (2nd in the SEC)
- Won 2018 SEC Tournament
- Lost to Auburn in 2019 Elite Eight
These teams have been almost identical in that stretch, with Auburn leading the series in that time 4-2, despite trailing the overall series 94-22.
The intensity of these games have felt like that of a rivalry. Every time these teams play, the stakes are high and it feels like this series is trending towards rivalry status. However, it is missing something—an Auburn win in Lexington.
Auburn hasn't won at Kentucky in Rupp Arena since 1988. It is a tough environment to play, but if this series is to take the next step into a rivalry, Auburn will have to find a way to win consistently in Lexington.
Luckily for the Tigers, they have a chance to do that on Feb. 29, when they travel to Rupp Arena. The Wildcats will be looking for revenge. The Tigers will be looking for it's first win at Kentucky, since 1988 and the team's first 3-game winning streak in the series. The stage is set for this series to evolve into a premiere rivalry.