Auburn coach Bruce Pearl is glad to be getting out of Southeastern Conference play Saturday when the No. 1 Tigers host Oklahoma in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
"I think it's valuable in that we'll see different actions," Pearl said. "Typically, leagues run the same stuff and guard the same way."It'll be somewhat refreshing from a schematic standpoint."
It's no wonder Pearl feels that way, especially coming off a 55-54 skin-of-their-teeth win at Missouri on Tuesday in Auburn's first game atop the poll.
The Tigers (19-1) have won 16 consecutive games to climb from No. 21 in the aftermath of their only loss of the season Nov. 24 to the top of the polls.
"We finally got No. 1, we're happy about it, but that's not the final step for us," Auburn's K.D. Johnson said. "We're just focused on trying to get wins everywhere we go now. There's a big prize on our head because we're No. 1. Everybody is going to give us their best shot."
Earlier this season, the Tigers faced Loyola Chicago, the program Porter Moser coached for a decade before taking the Oklahoma job in the offseason. The Ramblers are coached by former Moser assistant Drew Valentine and still have plenty of the same players Moser led.
"There are some similarities because Porter left a system at Loyola," Pearl said. "There are tweaks in personnel, and so not everything Loyola did Oklahoma will be and vice versa."
The Tigers' leading scorer, Jabari Smith, is coming off his worst game of the season, finishing with five points on 2-of-15 shooting against Missouri.
"Teams are playing him aggressively and physically," Pearl said. "That's fine. He's going to see that at the next level."
Oklahoma (13-7) is coming off a 72-62 win at West Virginia on Wednesday that snapped a four-game losing streak.
Auburn will be the sixth ranked team the Sooners have played in their past eight games and the fourth top-10 team.
"Since the end of November, that's as tough of a schedule as I've seen," Pearl said. "And yet, they're 13-7, getting votes in the poll and a win over the No. 1 team in the country away from getting on the bubble."
Oklahoma has three wins over top-15 teams this season, two of them against SEC opponents -- Arkansas and Florida.
The Sooners have won nine consecutive meetings with the SEC.
Oklahoma is 7-16 all time against the top-ranked team in the Associated Press poll, losing nine consecutive meetings.
That streak includes an 84-74 loss at then-No. 1 Baylor on Jan. 4.
"We are so capable of doing great things," Sooners big man Tanner Groves said. "We are right there with some of the best teams in the nation. Baylor on the road, we were right there. Kansas at home, we were right there. We can beat those teams. We just have to believe and stick with it and continue to preach our culture and be solid with it."
The Sooners' last win over a No. 1 team was over Kansas in the 2002 Big 12 Tournament.
Auburn leads the all-time series between the programs 2-1, with the last meeting being a 74-70 Tigers win in December 2016. Saturday's meeting will be the first on either team's home court.
--Field Level Media