In recent history, the Alabama-Auburn rivalry game has played a factor in deciding the SEC men’s basketball regular season championship, and Wednesday's game could continue the trend.

Over the past three seasons, Alabama or Auburn has won the regular season championship, including four of the past six. On Wednesday, the basketball version of the Iron Bowl could once again contain the next SEC regular season champion.

“It’s going to be a typical Alabama-Auburn game,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “We’ve got some competitive guys that know what a rivalry game looks like that can step up in this big game and play like it’s a league championship — because it very well may be.”

Auburn, ranked 8th nationally, leads the SEC with a 16-2 overall record and a perfect 5-0 in conference. With a record of 12-6 and 4-1, Alabama is in a three-way tie for second place along with No. 5 Tennessee and No. 6 Kentucky. Alabama’s lone SEC loss came Saturday, losing to the Vols 91-71.

An Alabama win would put the Crimson Tide in a first-place tie. On the other hand, a win by Auburn would put them ahead by two games, making it extremely difficult for Alabama to catch back up in the race.

Auburn is coming into the contest hot, boasting an 11-game win streak, while Alabama is coming off an embarrassing 20-point loss to No. 5 Tennessee on Saturday. 

“They’re definitely playing better than we are right now,” Oats said, “but even when one team is better than the other, this game is typically a tough, hard-fought game.”

“We were the better team last year, but they came in, and we were down 17 with under eight minutes to go because they came and played hard,” Oats added, referencing the Tide’s 90-85 OT win last year. “We were somehow fortunate enough to get the win.”

Over the past three seasons, the rivalry has consisted of three sweeps, resulting in the winner of the contest winning the SEC regular season championship. Alabama swept the series last season and in the 2020-21 season, winning the regular season championship both years. In the 2021-22 season, Auburn swept Alabama and won the regular season championship.

So far this season, Alabama has put up excellent metrics, but the Crimson Tide has fallen short when it comes to winning the tough games. Alabama’s best win thus far is a road win over Mississippi State. A win against No. 8 Auburn would be a great resume piece to submit to the selection committee in March to go alongside the metrics.

“I’ve told our guys this, it’s great we’ve blown out some bad teams by a lot, so our efficiency metrics look good,” Oats said Tuesday. “In the games that matter, we’re not coming up with enough wins. We’ll see tomorrow. ... I think our guys need to compete more; they need to play together more. They need to take care of the ball. We need to figure out how to win tough, close games."

Alabama will get a chance to prove they can win a challenging game when they host No. 8 Auburn Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.

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