It's not exactly like Anthony Grant is wading into the Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the first-year Alabama basketball head coach will get his first taste of the Alabama-Auburn rivalry when the Crimson Tide visits Auburn Saturday afternoon.
The basketball rivalry is not as intense as the football rivalry, but it's still heated.
Grant understands, calling it a "huge game" because it is Alabama-Auburn.
"I'm looking forward to experiencing what I've heard about for several months," Grant said earlier this week. "We'll be in a great atmosphere in their building in obviously a very highly-contested game."
The game has added significance for Alabama. A week ago, the Tide was on the verge of irrelevancy in the Southeastern Conference West race after three consecutive losses, but then Alabama upset Mississippi State 62-57 last Saturday to stop the slide and hand the Bulldogs their first conference loss. On Wednesday night, Alabama routed LSU 57-38, holding the Bengal Tigers to only 13 points in the second half.
Now, Alabama (13-7, 3-3 SEC) finds itself only a game behind division-leading Ole Miss (16-4, 4-2), entering a crucial part of its conference schedule. Beginning with Auburn, the Tide plays five of its next seven SEC games on the road, including visits to Ole Miss, Kentucky, Georgia and Mississippi State.
That means the Tide cannot afford a slipup against an Auburn team that is only 1-5 in the SEC (its lone win came against LSU, the only team still winless in SEC play) and is 10-11 overall.
The Tigers would like nothing better than to knock off their arch-rivals. That's why they scheduled a reunion of their 1985 for Saturday's game.
Auburn's 1985 team that included Chuck Person, Chris Morris, Jeff Moore, Frank Ford and Gerald White won the SEC Tournament championship, becoming the first team to win four games in four days to capture the title. The Tigers capped that remarkable run with a 53-49 overtime victory against Alabama in the championship game.
Unfortunately for Auburn, those guys will be in street clothes watching instead of on the court Saturday.
Perhaps their presence will give the current bunch of Tigers the boost they need to pull off an upset. They need all the help they can get.